Saturday, 30 May 2009

Nightjar Night

I went with Steve H and Holywell Birder to Acton Fell last night to look for Nightjars.
There were many places which looked good for Nightjars around the Slaley area but Acton Fell also gave us a good chance of seeing Owls as well.

We parked on the roadside overlooking a clearing in the plantation, which bordered onto Moorland.
We had a quick walk into the forest but headed back soon after to try and get a good view of a Nightjar whilst it was still light.
Red Grouse were calling from the moors behind the clearing and 27 Greylags flew over.

BH Gulls and Curlews were constantly flying over and calling which made things more confusing as we were listening for the Churring of the Nightjars.
We were sitting on the edge of the clearing when I saw something out of the corner of my eye, flying towards the forest.
It was a Nightjar – Lifer, we all got good views and it was still light enough to see the bird in colour rather than just a dark shadow.

Soon after we heard a bird churring from the edge of the forest where we had walked past before.
We scanned the trees but it was to well camouflaged and high up in the trees to find. A few minutes later it flew over the clearing before landing.
The Nightjar in flight looks completely different to what I imagined and looks to me like a cross between a tern and an owl.

As well as the Nightjars, a Cuckoo was calling from the forest behind us and a Woodcock was Roading overhead.
Before we left the clearing the Nightjars began churring again and we had brief views of them in between the trees. Another flew a few meters past my head!

We met another group of birders on the way out of the forest who had had similar success to us.
As we were leaving two more Nightjars flew over the car and back into the forest.
We got out to see if they would come back but instead we heard two Tawny Owls calling near the car.
In total we had 5 Nightjars!


Alan Tilmouth said...

That's a good number looks like it might be a good year.

Forbz said...

Excellent! Never seen Nightjars before. I'll have to get over to Acton Fell. I've just looked on the map - where abouts do you park?

Blyth Birder said...

Tomorrow night for us, as long as this good weather remains.

You'll probably see a succession of reports on Blogs now as the annual nightjar trip is like a domino effect - once one goes, we all go.

Crammy Birder said...

I think if you park anywhere around there you should get good views. There is no specific parking place, its probably better to park anywhere you can and walk to the edge of the woods near a clearing.

Digby said...

Hi I believe I have just seen a Nightjar in Whittingham. (Near Alnwick)
We are in the village surrounded by cottages and the nearest open ground is a half mile distant and woodland about a mile away.
Not really sure but it seems to fit the descriptions and pix I can find on the internet.
Sat in my garden at just after 5pm, sun still shining brightly. I was aware of a bird landing in the garden just behind my shed. I tried to bring back to mind the image of the bird I had seen, as it was definitely not a normal one. It was about the size of a slim pigeon. Flecked grey all over.
I got up from my seat at the table and walked slowly to a position where I could observe the ground behind the shed. At first I could see nothing but after a while I realised that the grey blur resting on the top of the wheel barrow must be the bird. At this point it was about 10 yards distant, hunkered down so that it's silhouette was almost entirely horizontal.
I very slowly approached to get a better view as I realised this was a bird I had never seen before.
At about 7 yards the bird took off with almost no sound and flapped away over the trees. It didn't reveal much more about itself but confirmed my initial impressions.: Mottled grey camouflage, quite large and this almost sleepy way of perching, not at all upright.
I guessed at a Nightjar but if anyone has any more sensible suggestions I should be delighted to hear them.

Crammy Birder said...

Hi Digby, sounds spot on for Nightjar, when exactly did you see this bird? This post is from over 2years ago.
Nightjar are most often seen sleeping during the day and are silent during flight.
If you let me know your name (or just initials) then I can send your sighting to the Northumberland and Tyneside bird club (NTBC) as it is a very good record.

There is nothing else that looks like a Nightjar, so I am sure thats what you would have seen.