Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Check out the picture, if it looks like a glove with a tissue pegged to it you're only partially right. What you actually see is our successful Nightjar mimic.
It all began on Saturday night with the Nightjar Walk the delightful rangers at Sherwood Forest Country Park put on at the start of every June. This was our second time on that walk and wow, we had decent views of the Nightjar, Cuckoo, Woodcock and some Tawny fledglings dazzled by our torches at the end of the night. We also got some top tips for a return visit, on how to get our own close encounters with Nightjars (without attracting them with recordings which by the way is illegal). Hence the glove. As they patrol at dusk males see the white spot and in the gloom it looks to them like the markings on a potential rival, and in they come for a closer inspection.
Well, this we tried last night not long after sunset, this time just the girlfriend and me there, and WOW. With the glove sat on a fence post in came the male, we had it circling within 10 feet of us, 10 feet! Wafting by in that strange floating flight action, it seemed to be looking at us looking at it. Better yet when we began to leave in he sailed again and landed on a fencepost not very much further away and sat there chirring. By now it was getting late so we ultimately did head for home, but not without first pegging that tissue to the back of my hat, and wouldn't you know it, another male gave us a couple of passes back out in the middle of the common.
These are magical, half-mythical birds, near impossible to photograph or film during flight so encounters with them tend to be private and personal, related only through story. All of that only makes this odd frog-mouthed, insect voiced, bark feathered bird even more enigmatic.
Here's a video of the chirring from the walk, you'll also hear the ranger trying to attract one in and listen carefully for the hiccup of a roding Woodcock.
I've been birdwatching most of my life and I can't think of a more thrilling encounter than we had last night. I'm still buzzed.
Sad therefore that the Nightjar is declining in number, particularly in the Sherwood Forest/Budby Common area, now they have only two chirring males left these days. Why? Well there is an apparent conflict between local expertise on how the National Nature Reserve should be managed and what the rangers are dictated to do by Natural England's bureaucracy. I don't know the whole story but I hope they sort it all out because these birds are clearly suffering.