Posts Tagged ‘Nightjar


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At last

We had been walking over the heath at Arne RSPB on the third day of our tour to Dorset. The Jurassic coast has lots of wildlife delights that made themselves available to us but none so much appreciated as on that day at Arne.

Written on the sightings board was a ‘Nightjar heard to call from the cafe garden’. Intriguing I thought. Upon enquiry with the warden on duty it had apparently been heard to churr at around nine o’clock that morning. It was now 5pm. Upon further enquiry I gleaned people in the cafe thought the churring had emanated from the car park. Those in the car park thought it came from the cafe. By my reasoning it had to be between the two, somewhere in a number of tall trees. I was told the trees had been scoured all day for a roosting bird without any luck.

Not to be deterred by the time elapsed since it had been heard, or the fact the area had been searched already, I explained to my ladies on the tour that we should take the opportunity to walk slowly to the cafe and shop looking carefully on all horizontal branches as we went. We completed a thorough search and … nothing!

As we got to the shop concentration broke and attention began to be diverted into buying bits and bobs. As purchases were made I thought I’d have a last look. Sitting on a bench I rose my bins and the first branch I checked … there it was. About 60 feet up in a tall oak. It sat, as they are inclined to do along the branch and intriguingly as the wind moved the surrounding vegetation it swayed. A master of disguise the Nightjar.

A sighting of a daytime roosting Nightjar has been a long time coming for me; more than 40 years. I was elated. After telling the warden, reserve staff as well as late leavers visiting the reserve came along to see him. I understand at the time of writing (9th July) he’s returned to the same branch and is still putting on a display to visitors.





Sometimes you can try too hard to find something. For many years now every time I’ve walked the paths across the heaths on the north Norfolk coast my eye is drawn to the horizontal branches and stumps in the hope of seeing a roosting Nightjar. To see one of these enigmatic birds in daylight has always been something that has been a wish during any walk in suitable habitat. Viewing them and attempting to photograph them in failing light when they come out to churr is ok but it’s hard to get a decent image and make out detail.

Let’s make it clear here it would be unethical as well as illegal to wander across the heaths and search for a bird. The risk of disturbing a rare breeding bird would be incalculably damaging. The idea is to find one viewable from a path, sat basking in bright sunshine well away from its nest.


We were watching a singing Woodlark the other day. A late one at that, but maybe it was a bird trying for second brood. It was flying high above us and belting out a song in the early morning light. Unexpectedly the moment was punctuated with the flypast of a Nightjar … in daylight! I thought it was a Kestrel at first. Very raptor like, appearing much bigger than a silhouette raking the gloom at dusk. Marvellous. It was there … and then it was gone.

Still not seen one on the deck … but I’ll keep running my eye over those logs and branches.




In the throws of last Autumn I came across this little beauty. No doubt on migration back to the dark continent. Nightjars are so enigmatic as well as probably having the most cryptic camouflage of any bird.



A start on the heath


It’s like being in a crowded room with everyone talking and amid the cacophony of noise you hear your own name. You pick it out as if it’s the only thing being said. It stands out from the background like a black silhouette on white,

I have been walking the heaths and searching this summer; searching diligently but to no avail, for a daytime roosting Nightjar. I’ve never seen one during daylight other than in flight. Great care has to be exercised not to wander from paths – the last thing in the world we want to do is disturb breeding nightjars or indeed other breeding birds.

I look at every likely log, post and branch I pass to see if that familiar shape leaps out at me. I thought I’d found one the other day as the form of a bird materialised on the end of a log. It took me an instant to recognise it was in fact a young fledgling Redstart. I stepped back to a reasonable distance to see if the parents came into feed as it was obviously quite young. In fact it started to hop about and find food itself. It appeared to be already independent.



Redstart 1

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Jun 2023


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