In just a few weeks’ time – around the end of April – we should be hearing our first nightingales, followed by cuckoos and turtle doves. The return of these lovely African migrants is one of the most keenly awaited moments of the year at Knepp Castle, West Sussex. To those of us who heard them regularly as children, their song is suffused with an almost melancholy nostalgia. It’s the sound of summer. They’re the stuff of Keats and Shakespeare, as British as strawberries and cream.

Yet younger generations may never have heard them. All three birds are now critically scarce in the British Isles ...


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