Field Trip: Nightjar Evening, Thurs 16th June

Our yearly trip to see the Nightjars has come round again already; it does not seem a year since we were last on Marsham Heath gathering to see these strange nocturnal birds. No not nocturnal, let me get it right. Nightjars are more crepuscular, that is they like the twilight times of dawn and dusk to hunt and forage for their prey. Only when the sun has disappeared over the horizon will we hear that strange churring noise telling us to keep our eyes peeled as at any moment, a strange eerie bird will silently fly by, a bird with an almost supernatural reputation for their mythical ability to steal the milk from goats.

We met at the Marsham Heath car park at 9.20pm. a few of us had been to the Marsham Arms public house for a meal and drinks and a bit of a social beforehand but now there are 34 people gathered to see these enigmatic birds. Some had never seen one, others only see them on this occasion to get their yearly tick, others come just to see this fabulous bird but all are getting excited as we walked onto the heath not too far from the car park with good views to the edge of the woods, hoping we will get one land and rest on a branch somewhere. 34 people stood waiting quietly (which I thank you all for) in anticipation.

It was about 9.40pm when a distant churring was first heard and sure enough not long after the first of several Nightjars silently flew over us. Always a delight to see, looking like a small falcon in structure but at the same time looking very much like a cuckoo- ish, with their pointed wings and long tail. For over 30 minute several birds flew around the area we all stood at, both males with their distinctive white patches on the wing tips and each corner of the tail and females but unfortunately although one or two did fly onto branches of the trees, they soon took flight so we were never able to get a scope onto any for a good view of one at rest. Unusually there was very little churring nearby that night, unlike other times but one or two birds could be heard churring in the distance and there were several short female calls, a bit like a short croaking frog noise. By 10.15 pm we had seen several birds but the dark had crept up on us making it more and more difficult to spot the birds so we made our way back to the cars, just in time to miss the rain. Thanks to all who came, another successful nightjar evening was had by all I hope.

Which bring me to the subject of next year’s nightjar evening. Although the meal was very nice at the Marsham Arms several people thought it expensive for what it was. So when it comes to arranging next year’s program I would like to hear some feedback as to what sort of thing people would like on a Nightjar Evening.

  • Are you happy going to Marsham Heath again as we have always had decent views, it’s in our area and there is plenty of parking space close by?
  • Do people still want to meet for a drink and a meal beforehand? Any suggestions as to where you would like to meet and eat?
  • Would you like to find another venue locally or go further afield i.e. Thetford Forest, Kelling Heath, Horning Broad for example?
  • Would people rather meet earlier to go birding early evening before moving to a nightjar spot?
  • Does anyone know of a better habitat within our area?

So in the next couple of months, before we start on next year’s program, if you could speak to me or write or e-mail your thoughts and feelings about the Nightjar Evening, to myself or any of the committee members then we will do our best to give you a good night’s birding and one we can all enjoy. Once again thank you all and I’m sure we will meet somewhere next year to see this wonderful bird.

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