Nightjar

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I’ve not blogged in a while because I have been busy with others thing (including overtime at work) and also I suppose I was waiting for the warmer weather to appear to give me an opportunity to find something to write about.

Last week we went to Lakenheath Fen on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, a reserve managed by the RSPB. I hadn’t been there before but was aware it has a variety of habitats – woodlands, wetlands, reedbeds, etc. – so I was expecting to get some use out of my binoculars.

Instead it was mostly my ears that took centre stage as there were many interesting bird sounds from the reedbeds from elusive birds that just didn’t emerge, no matter how long we waited. Bitterns booming and never appearing is an experience I am used to, but I had not expected that when wandering down the path back to the visitor centre we would disturb a nightjar!

The sound was so puzzling to a very amateur birder like me – it sounded like a computer game, or a laser, or a machine. We couldn’t spot the creature, didn’t even manage to get a recording, but when googling it days later we realised it could only be a nightjar. I know it’s unlikely and unusual behaviour at this time of year but I can’t think that we could have confused such a distinctive sound.

This was on the 1st of April, on a reserve that had no prior reported sightings. They do nest in nearby Thetford forest so I imagine this one was on its way there and stopped off to see if maybe this territory might be suitable nesting ground.

Other birds that we actually spotted that day include blackcaps, reed buntings, cormorants, marsh harriers, egrets, herons. There were also some garganeys but they were too far away for binoculars to take in.

8 comments

  1. I’ve recently become a lot more interested and birds and would like to get into it. I’ve started taking time to really pay attention to the sounds the make around me, how they bring a subtle cheerfulness to the world. I really need to set some time aside for this. As for the nightjar, I’m going to have to google its sound. You’ve caught my interest.

    • I’d heard it before on an episode of Springwatch but had to google it to find out what it is. Very unusually early so quite a surprise. I’m an amateur as well but I’ve found that once you start opening your ears you notice all sorts of bird song you’ve been hearing all your life.

      • I remember as a child thinking that birdwatcher most be the most boring people on earth- just sitting around doing nothing but watching. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve grown more and more fascinated with them. We can never guess the ways in which we’ll grow. I was just reading your other post Getting Into Birding, so I know you’ll agree. Now I wish I had an audio of birds chirping in the background. That must exist somewhere…

      • Yes, the internet is great for bird sound resources. The only trouble is that out on a nature reserve you can’t get signal…

        I used to be dragged round bird huts as a child and I never got it because I couldn’t see or identify anything. Investing in a decent pair of binoculars might have changed that earlier on.

      • That’s parents for you. We keep the good stuff to ourselves haha. I’m thinking more bird sounds at work. Just for a bit of tranquility and nature in the atmosphere.

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