30th June 2016
For the first of the series of Nightjar meetings the weather didn’t look promising, heavily overcast with low cloud, almost constant drizzle, strong wind from south-west and pretty chilly, so there wasn’t a great deal of optimism. However, 4 brave souls gathered with Andrew Bluett and set off into the gathering gloom in search of crepuscular quarry.
In view of the weather, and with only 5 people to accommodate, we cheated and drove to the viewing area rather than walking, which made things rather easier and also provided for a quick escape route if the weather became significantly worse.
As things turned out we had a real treat, 3 males churring and flying around from 9.45pm, with excellent views of birds coming close to investigate who we were and hunting low over the heath in pursuit of the moths. Several times the birds perched on one of a number of favoured perches and stayed there churring for extended periods. There was also much “chirping” as they flew and some wing clapping at times. We were favoured with 3 sightings of Woodcock, a few Bats and a frog or two, 3 large male Wild Boar and several Fallow Deer. A young Tawny Owl called from the trees on the way back to the main road.
On the way home, Colin & Ingrid Twissell who had travelled with Andrew Bluett were treated to excellent views of two family parties of Wild Boar – a female with 12 boarlets and a second female with 8, in both cases the adult lactating females being accompanied by a couple of “nursemaids” helping to care for the young.
8th July 2016
This meeting originally planned for the 7th had to be changed to the 8th. The weather was not quite as poor as for the previous meeting but was again overcast, chilly and windy. Given the success of the previous meeting, there was rather more hope of decent views of Nightjar which proved to be well founded.
6 members and guests duly met with Andrew Bluett and the party walked through the forest to the viewing area, within a very few minutes after reaching the viewing point at 9.40pm, the first Nightjar started churring, closely followed by others and much aerial activity with birds flying around, coming close and at times chasing one another around over the heath. The same favoured perches were used making it quite easy to keep track of the birds for almost two hours.
The Woodcock was heard several times but not seen and on this occasion no Boar or Deer appeared. On the walk back to the cars, the juvenile Tawny Owl was heard calling again and proved to be visible in the outer branches of a Birch tree by the side of the track before slipping away into cover.
14th July 2016
Eight members and guests turned up for the best of the three evenings weather-wise. It was relatively warm, still and fairly clear with some moonlight. Very shortly after arriving on the viewing point the first Nightjar was sighted and the activity gradually built up as darkness closed in. Again at least three males were performing, floating across the heather and bracken, perching in their favoured spots and churring, some wing clapping was seen and much chirping was uttered as the birds flew about. Several times one bird chased another and at one point, a bird took off from a high perch and rose into the sky in a display flight, quickly joined by a second bird, they then drifted off high overhead towards the woodland.
Very good views were had of birds coming close to the party – Nightjars are innately curious and will investigate intruders and foreign objects on their patch – as was the case with the video camera set up in front of one particular favoured perch with a bird lifting off the dead tree stump and almost landing on the camera and tripod before returning to the perch.
On the way back after a very good evening, a solitary Wild Boar scuttled off through the trees and two deer appeared, they also bounded off into the darkness. David Priddis discovered a few bats with his detector which added something to the evening and finally, the reliable young Tawny Owl was again head calling from the depths of the trees.
My thanks to all who turned out on the series of evening walks, their faith was rewarded and the whole venture was a great success.
A short video clip of a Nightjar can be seen here –