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Monday 21:00-21:30
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Nature offers a window on global natural history. Each week Mark Carwardine rubs shoulders with animals and experts, providing a unique insight into the natural world, the environment, and the magnificent creatures that inhabit it.
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 12 May
Mark Carwardine
Monday 12 May 2003
Chris Mead
Chris Mead 1940-2003

Chris Mead, the Nightingale man

Lionel Kelleway presents a very special programme in the first of a new series of Nature, when he goes in search of the Nightingale and pays tribute to a much loved and admired birdwatcher and broadcaster, Chris Mead, for whom this bird had a very special significance, and who sadly died earlier this year.

Chris Mead (1940-2003) was a big man: both in stature and personality. He was, as one colleague describes, “enthusiasm”: enthusiastic about the natural world, and about communicating this world to those around him. Chris’s knowledge of birds was encyclopedic. He was also a brilliant communicator – the voice of the British Trust for Ornithology (B.T.O.) for over 40 years working tirelessly within the ringing unit, as an ambassador and latterly as the press consultant. Journalists knew that they could rely on him, at any time of day or night for a commentary on any ornithological issue.

In this edition of Nature, we pay tribute to the man, who has taken part in natural history radio programmes for over 30 years. We hear from Dilys Breese, who worked with Chris and produced so many of the early editions of Living World and Wildlife and from Jim Flegg, former director of the B.T.O, and a great friend and colleague of Chris Mead, about the man and his fascination with the natural world.

The programme also examines something of the legacy Chris left behind, by examining his involvement in the Nightingale Survey and the subsequent work to manage habitats for the nightingale and secure its future in this country.

At this time of year, in May, Nightingales can be heard singing at dusk, and during the night, having returned to England from mid-April onwards after their long migration back from Africa. The song of the nightingale has been a great source of inspiration to poets (Keats), writers and ornithologists like Chris. But why sing at night? Rob Thomas at Cardiff University explains why this bird, unlike so many of our dawn chorus songsters, chooses the dark in which to perform its most beautiful of melodies.

The song of the Nightingale was also the inspiration for the Nightingale Survey, pioneered by Chris Mead and others, and launched by Dame Vera Lynn in 1998. A third of the sum of £160,000 needed for the survey was raised through the sales of Nightingales: A Celebration, a cd of nightingale recordings and poems, introduced by Richard Mabey. The first survey of Nightingales (and other woodland species) was in 1999. Subsequent surveys have revealed not only the population distribution and density of nightingales, but also highlighted the changing habitat use of these birds from woodland areas to scrub.

Lionel Kellway joins Rob Fuller from the B.T.O. in search of a nightingale dusk chorus, talks about the results of the surveys, the importance of managing scrub for nightingales, and the future of this beautiful songster, which so inspired ornithologist Chris Mead.

Further Information:
The Book of Nightingales by Richard Mabey, published by Sinclair-Stevenson 1997
ISBN 1 85619 693 3
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