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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of May 14, 1999

This week, facts about... the nightingale. Fewer and fewer nightingales are returning to the English countryside each spring, so this year the British Trust for Ornithology has launched a nationwide nightingale appeal.

Transcript

KNOY: It's Living on Earth. I'm Laura Knoy. This month, all England is listening for a sound the nation has celebrated for more than a millennium: the nocturnal song of the nightingale.

(Nightingale calls)

KNOY: After wintering in West Africa, thousands of nightingales return to England in May to nest and breed. But disruption of the birds' habitat in the English countryside has caused their numbers to decline. So this year, the British Trust for Ornithology has launched a nationwide nightingale appeal. One of the appeal's chief rundraisers will be a recording of a duet first broadcast 75 years ago. The performance featured the famous British cellist Beatrice Harrison playing in her garden, accompanied by the trilling of a nightingale.

(Harris on cello, with nightingale: "Oh Danny Boy")

KNOY: On May 19, 1924, the late-night BBC broadcast drew more than a million listeners. It was the BBC's first live outdoor broadcast, and it was repeated each year until Ms. Harrison moved away in 1936. After that, the nightingales were broadcast solo until 1942, when a BBC engineer picked up the sound of RAF bombers bound for Germany flying overhead, and stopped transmitting so as not to tip off the Germans.

(Nightingales backdropped by bombers)

KNOY: And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

 

 

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