Nightjar

Sunset on Little Haldon
Sunset on Little Haldon

Last night Lil and I were watching the BBC’s “Springwatch” programme ((For those of you not from the UK this is a series which runs for a few weeks in late Spring following various wildlife stories using hidden cameras and location film crews)) , which had a piece on Nightjars on the lowland heaths in Dorset. This reminded us that we have our very own Nightjar habitat just 2 miles from our house, the Little Haldon Heaths SSSI, and since it was a lovely evening we thought we’d go and see if any birds were calling.

We arrived at the heath just before sunset, and walked out to one of the more remote areas. The site is bordered by farmland and bisected by a well-used B-road, so vehicle noise is an issue everywhere. We heard the first Nightjar calling in the distance at around 21:40, some 20 minutes after sunset. This bird was too far away to record successfully, but hearing it churring along with a late Skylark and a just-awakening Tawny Owl was beautiful. We then slowly retraced our steps back to the parking area and came across another bird calling from a clump of conifer trees. Again, this was a little too far away to record, and after a few minutes it moved on to another part of the heath.

At this point we split up for a few minutes – Lil wanted to check out the local bat life with her detector and I wanted to look at the conifer trees to see whether there were any decent concealed recording sites close by. As I headed back down the path to meet up with Lil again I could hear a Nightjar calling in front of me. The bird had landed on a bare branch about 10m from where Lil was standing, and I managed to get this recording before it moved on. At the end of the recording you hear a wonderful example of the bird “clapping” by striking its wings together over its back as it flies away.

The recording was made with a Sennheiser ME66/K6 microphone and a Tascam HD-P2 recorder. Levels boosted by 20dB in post and some filtering applied using apQualizr to remove distant traffic noise.

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