Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Out for a Few Jars . . .

. . . . Nightjars that is.

An early start meant we (Steve, Bob and myself)  had time to take in the atmospherics of the mid-evening around Blanchland moors, and were rewarded with excellent views of Black Grouse males, two out in the open, another slightly distant and a female in half-cover. The bubbling calls of the distant male were a first for me, and seeing them eventually fly past us was a treat, graceful birds for their size and shape, large-white wing bars and rich red eyebrow outstanding on the deep Prussian blue sheen covering the bulk of the bird. A sight to behold.

Black Grouse - first sight

My sub-standard photo falls way short of doing justice
 to the rich colours of this cracking bird
The activity on the moors was at its height; snipe were still drumming overhead, curlews flew to and fro, calling all the while, lapwings were busy chasing off basically anything that moved and redshanks paraded along the dry-stone walls, while the calls of the lambs echoed all around.

Cuckoos clocked . . .

Up to the Nightjar site hoping for only my second ever sighting of these mysterious birds. The cuckoos were still giving it welly all around, calling from near and far, and one in particular teased us as it gathered massive hairy caterpillars just down from the layby and ate them from fenceposts, seemingly knowing that the fading light was just not good enough for photos even at this short distance, though remained excellent viewing as it remained on its post for minutes on end.

On top of the overture of sounds, the sight of the setting sun was something else to behold, and I tried to capture it with my limited powers of photography as the landscape changed colour :

As the sun disappeared over the forest the first woodcock came out, emitting a high pitched 'seep, seep!' as it flew over our heads. Others soon followed, or was it the same bird? half a dozen sightings involved at least two.

Then as darkness arrived, so did the nightjars, two flew out of the trees to our right and churring began from further up the bank. We moved up the road to get a bit closer and flushed a male just off the roadside, the white spots on wingtips and tail stood out like the proverbial sore thumbs even in darkness.
Shortly afterwards a female circled around with minimal spotting, but when the churring stopped another male flew around the trees then towards us, giving superb views as he passed us in that slow fluttery flight on bent wings, and joined by a woodcock they flew practically side-by-side down to where the cars were parked.
A bit of a lull so I walked back down the road. Two churring now, one ahead of me and one behind. No further flying activity though so I walked back up to where Steve and Bob were. . . as the rain (which hadn't been forecast), started :-O

As it gradually got heavier and our only airborne company was now a couple of (probably pipistrelle) bats, we though that was going to be it, but no; one last bit of excitement as another male Nightjar came out of the felled area and danced around our heads for another superb show, before fluttering off over the moors, and began churring in the distance.

Thank Photoshop for the photo I wished I'd got :-)
The steady rain showed no sign of easing so we called it a night, happy with the superb close views but disappointed there weren't more of them. A roadside Tawny Owl completed a top night out on the way home, and with it still being relatively early in the season, hopefully there'll be another chance for more of the same before long, as seeing the Nightjars, and the antics of the supporting cast was as good as anything we'd missed on Springwatch.

Cheers Steve, excellent session.  

1 comment:

  1. Another excellent account.
    No mention of the hoped for Jam JARS i had expected.