Call me a wuss, or call me sensible, but nocturnal birding has never been my strongpoint as I’ve never been one for wandering round lonely areas in the pitch dark on foot. So last night I siezed my chance to catch up with a couple of night-dwelling birds on a SBSG guided walk at Wharncliffe Heath.
The target birds for the evening were nightjar and woodcock, and it proved to be a very popular event, with over fifty people joining the walk. We got on to the heath about 9.40pm, and before long heard our first tawny owl, and very soon roding woodcocks appeared, one flying almost straight over the assembled group. I was as excited about this as the nightjars, as it consituted one of those “I can’t believe I’ve never seen one” life ticks.
A short while later, the distinctive churring of the nightjars began. We were advised that the time to look for them flying was when the churring stopped, as this was the time they’d be moving between perches. And sure enough, as the sound stopped, it flew across the sky, and there was enough light left to make out the white spots on the male’s wing, as it caught up with a second nightjar nearby. Brilliant stuff! We were greeted with lots more churring, and another good view, before the night was out, and it was great to see a bird I’ve only ever heard before.
On the way back, a quick poke of the torch into a pond revealed a few newts, presumably smooth newts, languishing in the water.
Unfortunately the most common animal of the evening were the bloody mozzies, and this morning I’m covered in itchy bites, but it was well worth it to see some fantastic night birds.