Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Nightjar Pilgrimage

To arms, to arms, ye brave!
Th'avenging sword unsheathe!
March on, march on, all hearts resolved
On liberty or death.
Lyrics from La Marseillaise

14th July.  Bastille Day, and our annual pilgrimage to Slaley Forest in search of Nightjars.  Our only arms were netting, insect repellent and a bat detector.  An earlier planned visit had been well timed, but unfortunately cancelled because of thunderstorms and downpours.  This evening we were blessed with sunshine and dryness, although it did appear that dark cloud filled the sky further south and rain appeared to be falling in one particular area.  Our number this year consisted of Marie, Sam and me.

First stop was Corbridge as is our custom.  As we walked down to the river we watched Swifts entering nests at the side of the bridge.  A Kingfisher flew up river and other birds seen included Moorhen, Black Headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Mallard, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Swallow and Sand Martin.  We had tea sat on the stone remains of the old Roman Bridge and thought about how many feet had walked these stones in the past.  Yellowhammers showed well in this area that is always good for this species and we heard Sparrowhawk calls.  Butterflies seen were Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown and Ringlet.

We set off early for Slaley as we intended to do some walking on the moor.  Brown Hare was seen as we approached our destination.  When we arrived the air was already filling with insects which did not bode well for later.  Our first defence was used in the form of insect repellent.  In my case a mixture of Deet and Avon Skin Soft.  I might be bitten still, but at least I’d smell nice…well I would smell anyway!

View across the moor towards Derwent Reservoir
The moor was as quite as I’ve ever found it with not even any gulls flying over.  We found a few Meadow Pipits, the odd Swallow and Wren, but little else until a few Red Grouse began to lift.  We did eventually hear calling from two or three Golden Plover, but we were never able to locate them.  The air was beginning to cool as we retraced our steps towards the forest but it remained bright and clear and the view was excellent.  Two Greylag Geese were in the area.

Back at the vehicle it was on with another layer of clothing and more of the insect repellent before we took to the forest track.  It wasn’t long after 10.00pm and still quite light when we heard our first churring Nightjar.  By now Sam, Batman for the evening had the bat detector out.  I saw a number of bats fly out of a tree by the track and reckon they were just leaving the roost.  The timing suggested that they would be Pipistrelle Bats and this was confirmed by the flight pattern, the bat detector and Sam.  We didn’t find any other species of Bat this evening.  We did have numerous calling Woodcock fly over and later on a silent Tawny Owl fly over close by us.  I have to say that even the Tawny Owls were quiet tonight with just some distant calls picked up.

After a few short bursts of churring the Nightjars seemed to remain silent however we did have one of our best sightings of Nightjar as one flew from the plantation and across the clearing and back again, giving us a very good showing.  The insects were a real problem tonight and were in my mouth, ears, eyes and nose and the buzz of mossies were a constant threat.  It meant I resorted to a second line of defence and had netting over my head.  It was Sam’s covering so it is thanks to him that I was reasonably untroubled.

Summer Nights
It had been a very good evening and worth the delay, although I wonder if our later trip than usual had meant less churring Nightjars.  I collected the newspapers this morning and folk seemed to be avoiding me.  For the life of me I don’t know why!

1 comment:

  1. Nice to get a good sighting, despite having to fight off the insects, lol.