Goatsuckers. Fern-owl. Eve-jar. Over the years nightjars have been called by a lot of different names in different parts of the country, but they say that "a rose by any name would smell as sweet". In this case, that should be "a nightjar by any name would be ab-so-lutely ruddy brilliant!" I am, I must confess, slightly biased - nightjars are my favourite bird, and it's probably their fault that I got into heaths, and thus, indirectly, that I'm writing this blog!
Nightjars are strange birds - they perch along branches, rather than across them like "normal" birds and are nocturnal, funneling moths and other night flying insects into their large gape with bristles around the base of the bill. During courtship/territorial flights they clap their wings together behind their backs. Yes, in flight. Impressive or what? You usually see them at dusk, although they are equally active just around dawn. The best thing is their song, a wonderful throbbing, rhythmic purring note, that rises and falls as the bird turns its head from side to side. To be on a heath on a summers evening, as the light fades and that marvellous sound starts up - it is, quite simply, the sound of summer for me, and for a lot of other people. Certainly our nightjar walk is always one of the most popular.
Nightjars were one of our key target species back when the RSPB started transforming the conifer plantations here back to heathland. They came back pretty much bang on cue, and last summer we had 5 males churring here. It's still fairly early days, but I heard three on Tuesday of this week, and I still haven't checked out all the reserve. Hopefully numbers will continue to increase.
Also had some good news this spring about our field cricket translocation project. So far I've heard a peak count of 9 calling male crickets, which proves that they successfully bred last summer, and that some of those young survived the winter. In warm weather crickets will call into the evening, so what with them and the nightjars here's hoping that summer evenings will get really noisy around here!