Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Nightjar's on Purbeck Heaths

Last week I assisted a local guided walk by Lulworth Rangers onto some heathland ( undisclosed site) in South Dorset along the Purbeck Coastline.

Nightjar's are my favourite bird species and family group of all birds. It is very difficult to beat a good view of a Nightjar close up on a warm summers evening out on a midge-covered heathland!!!

Over the past 3 year's, I have participated in ringing and monitoring of Nightjar populations in Wales and Dorset which really opened my eyes into this unique and mysterious bird that today we still know very little about their breeding ecology and migration patterns to and from the UK.

As a summer visitor migrant, Nightjar's arrive in mid-late May, breeding in dense and regenerating conifer plantations, feeding on open heaths and moorlands. Their prime prey source consist's mainly of night flying insect's such as moths.

They are truly a magical bird and one of Britian's best birds. So while attending the guided walk, we came across at least 10 different churring males after 9.30pm. We had cracking views of courtship flight's, male's churring in flight and feeding and even a male chasing a female right over out heads. It was one of my best flight views of Nightjar in still quite bright evening light!!

In total estimate count showed 10 males, 5 females seen between 9.30pm and 11.15pm on the heathland. Most males were only 50-100 metres apart on their territories so the population and churring males seemed quite densely populated to this medium size of heath.

Hopefully in the near future, I would love to do my own Nightjar study and really look into prey items, breeding ecology, nesting behaviours and their migration routes.

A fantastic experience and great to see Nightjar this year which is my 7th consecutive year of seeing Nightjar in a row!! Love to find one on the patch soon.....Watch this space.

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