July 2022 - Nightjars at Priddy
Anyone attending our last trip of the season would have been disappointed if they were expecting to see a large diversity and number of species. We saw a few shadowy birds, a bat or 2 flying round, and noticed a few plant species in the grassland such as heath bedstraw and bird’s foot trefoil.
Yet everyone agreed that the late evening walk in Priddy with bird experts Chris and Helena Craig was absolutely magical and a thrilling and memorable experience. The weather was warm and visibility was good, even as dusk fell. 13 of us walked quietly past a pool disturbing a couple of herons, their call a primeval harsh croak.
Bird's Foot Trefoil
Lime-speck pug moth caterpillar on cow parsley
Wildflower grasslands
Chris listening out for the first nightjar calls
Before long we saw the stars of the show: two nightjars cutting across the darkening sky, probably a male and a female. We were then treated to a few fly pasts, their erratic flight reminding us of the wind up toy birds from seaside souvenir shops.
After a short wait - the silence was deafening - we heard a few calls, following by the characteristic and unique mechanical whirring which was the male nightjar calling, proclaiming his territory and attracting females. This helicopter-like sound ebbed and flowed as he turned his head left and right, maximising his impact. These calls were repeated several times, up to 2 minutes in length, with several minutes gap between.

Thanks to Chris and Helena Craig for guiding us to exactly the right spot to see and hear them, and to Kathy Farrell for the bat detector findings. Special thanks to Liz Wintle, for organising this trip so well, along with all the others this season. She is already working on next year’s trips!

Dave Sage

Photos by Kathy & Martin Farrell

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Avon Wildlife Trust
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Email: keynshamawt@gmail.com