European Nightjar

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Nice to see the return of what is probably my favourite bird. So far this year I’ve only seen a few, but will be spending a lot more time with them over the coming weeks, as per every year. This photo was taken last year in the Forest of Dean. The crop was unintentional as it was pitch black and largely down to guesswork as to when to fire the camera.

European Nightjar

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With the end of the Nightjar season fast approaching, this was probably my favourite shot of the year, though I still have a number of images and hours of footage to work through. They’re fascinating birds, each an individual in their own way, and constantly raise questions the more they’re studied. This is the same female bird that featured in the footage from the nest-cam that I recently posted. The following picture was taken from a different site, also in the Forest of Dean, and shows a male perched whilst singing.
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European Nightjar nest-cam


Many evenings this summer have been dedicated to studying the Nightjar here in the Forest of Dean. As the sun goes down and the light fades, the Nightjar activity begins. We managed to find a nest this year, and took the opportunity to install a motion sensitive trail camera on it. This video summarises a huge amount of video clips (over 9 hours in all), starting from a day before hatching, and finishing with a hurried desertion of the nest site due to the risk of being trampled by Fallow Deer. Earlier in the sequence, a similar fate almost occurs, but the chicks are immobile, leaving the male bird to harass the deer away. Lots of other interesting behaviour and vocalisations were recorded. The bird pictured in the previous photo is the female parent that features in this video. More photos to follow soon…

European Nightjar

Nightjar
This Nightjar was photographed during a licensed nest visit. The European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus can be a tricky species to study. Often, the male Nightjar’s unique churring call is the only sign that these migrants have arrived in the UK for the summer, unless you are lucky enough to see one silhouetted against the moonlight. This is a species associated with myths and legends. In many European languages, the Nightjar is known as the ‘goatsucker,’ with the genus name Caprimulgus deriving from the Latin for ‘milker of goats’. It was believed that Nightjars fed from goats due to often being found in close proximity to livestock. In reality, this insectivorous species would have been searching for prey associated with domestic animals. Others believed the calls of the Nightjar were the sound of witches hiding in the bushes.
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Nightjar

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This Nightjar was photographed whilst in the process of being ringed in the Forest of Dean. Nightjars are nocturnal birds and can be seen hawking for food at dusk and dawn. With pointed wings and a long tails their shape is similar to a kestrel or cuckoo. Their cryptic, grey-brown, mottled, streaked and barred plumage provides ideal camouflage in the daytime. They have an almost supernatural reputation with their silent flight and their mythical ability to steal milk from goats. The first indication that a nightjar is near is usually the male’s churring song, rising and falling with a ventriloquial quality.