Radio 4 given the bird over nightingale that sang in Scotland

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The Independent Online

He may have diligently tended to the fictional ills of the people of Tannochbrae for decades but when it comes to nightingales, it seems Doctor Finlay may need a second opinion.

He may have diligently tended to the fictional ills of the people of Tannochbrae for decades but when it comes to nightingales, it seems Doctor Finlay may need a second opinion.

Producers of a new Radio 4 series retelling the adventures of the Scottish GP were accused yesterday of ornithological incompetence after an episode in which the doctor staggers home drunk on his stag night featured a nightingale singing at least 400 miles beyond its normal habitat.

Expert twitchers said the radio programme - "The Day Before the Wedding" and featuring Dr Finlay, played by the actor John Gordon-Sinclair, listening to the songbird in the small hours in his Highland village - had grievously misrepresented the nightingale's pattern of distribution around the British Isles.

Malcolm Ogilvie, secretary of the British Birds Rare Breeding Birds Panel, who is based in Islay, Argyllshire, said: "Nightingales now mostly nest in south-east England - even in the 1920s when Dr Finlay was in practice their songs would have not have been expected north of Humberside.

"Very occasionally it's possible for a male to wander too far north on its spring migration and sing for a short while - one did so here on Islay in the 1973 spring - but it would be a remarkable coincidence for one to turn up in Tannochbrae as Dr Finlay was tottering home from his stag night."

The BBC was unable to comment on the alleged oversight in its research for the series, which is a comical take on the novels by AJ Cronin. But ornithologists were in no mood forgive yesterday.

Dr Ogilvie said: "It niggles birdwatchers when they hear nightingale song being used inappropriately on soundtracks - either in totally the wrong setting or the wrong time of year.

"Broadcasters wanting to feature nocturnal birdsong away from south-east England should use a blackbird recording - they can often be heard after dark, are fine singers and occur throughout Britain."

However, one excuse for Radio 4 might be that a nightingale had not really been singing at Tannochbrae as, at the end of the half hour episode, Dr Finlay awoke with a hangover and it turned out that everything that had happened had just been a dream.

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