Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Creatures of the night: Take 2

After having such a great time out looking for Nightjars a couple of weeks previously I quickly took an opportunity to head to the same site again in the hope for the same selection of birds. Feeling somewhat indebted to the generous deed from Liz, Rob and Luke back in April in a journey up to the Mynd for the Dotterel flock I was quite happy to return the favour and show them the location of some of our nocturnal species.

A pre-dusk walk around the same location followed before moving over towards the Nightjar site, and during so managed to find a number of Tree Pipits and a singing male Garden Warbler. Similarly to last time, a number of Cuckoo were partaking in their namesake and 'Cuckooing' regularly, and Willow Warbler were the most common warbler.
Our first target of the trip had failed to show which wasn't a huge surprise, but again with the light fading it was time to move onwards, and in doing so a surprise followed as 2 Mallards were roosting on the edge of the heather and gorse.
We arrived with time to spare, but soon our first Woodcock of the evening appeared, and then another, both roding in wide circles over the extensive heathland. A few gave a repeat performance of last time and flew straight over our heads. With the precursor event underway, and the horizon turning various shades of red and orange it wasn't long before one of our main targets piped up, and the same 'squeeky gates' from the pine plantation were the first indication that the LONG-EARED OWL'S were now active, but as last time, deep within the impenetrable wall of coniferous trees.
And then the NIGHTJARS piped up, first a brief chur like last time, the occasional contact call, and then the male started churring properly, and the reasons for his efforts were obvious, he was chasing a female!

Both birds were flying about us, the male in pursuit of the female, showing off his white flashes like the poser he was. He followed her every move, and they gracefully hawked moths and other flying insects from across the clearing.

(video from my previous visit)

With the light now getting very low, we took our leave,  but having walked only a hundred feet or so to the other side of the plantation, Rob spotted a silent shape flush of the path behind an area of trees. It flew down the side of the plantation where it was joined by another, which was hunting low over the heather bank opposite us. It was a pair of LONG-EARED OWLS! And actually showing well!

One sat on a fence post quite distantly down the track, flying off to hunt at the opposite end of the plantation, but the other flew in towards us and dropped into the low vegetation giving jaw dropping views of these elusive birds despite the low light. Once in the scope, the long ears were obvious as it sat on its catch, a minute or two passed, and following stare off and a few bobbing movements, this bird flew off low into the plantation, rounding off yet another great evening out looking for birds of the night!

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