Sunday, 6 June 2010

Red-necked Nightjarring


One evening, as our busy season is ending, no dinners to serve, no washing-up to do, so I slipped out just before dusk to walk ten minutes up the lane near the house. We can hear the Red-necked Nightjars calling from the house from mid-April, at dusk and at dawn and sometimes one will glide across the garden. But to get better views it is best to head for a quiet track between the olive groves, stopping at a point where one's view is reasonably unobstructed. There is something special about being out as night falls and the bats start appearing. As a boy, I would head to a local oak wood, stand at the edge and wait for the roding flight of the Woodcock, that extraordinarily cryptic wader that circles each territory at dusk uttering a series of grunts followed by a loud whip-crack of a call. Sometimes there would be the chance to go "nightjarring", which meant a drive to a forestry plantation to listen to the churring of European Nightjars and the occasional glimpse of this long-winged, long-tailed bird.

Here our nightjars are Red-necked, slightly larger than the European with a very different call: a repetitive "chock-chock". Standing on this track that evening I watched a bird glide over head and then another performing its wing-clapping display. I heard one calling from a holm oak tree and then watched as it flew across my path to settle in another tree to my right. They would be heading off to search for moths, doutless making use of the lamps in the village street (the attached photo was taken by my freind John Hawkins in a nearby village). By now the light was very poor and I made my way back home, pausing to look at a glow-worm on the stone wall and listening the soft hoot of a Long-eared Owl, whilst a Scops Owl called nearby and Nightingale song filled the bushes. Such evenings are always memorable.