Trip reports

Nightjar Walk on Horsell Common

Nightjar Walk on Horsell Common
RSPB Images

Friday, 17 June 2016

Eighteen members joined me for our annual search for nightjar on Horsell Common, led by Simon Lumsden. As usual, we started by heading through the pine and birch woodland towards the land behind McLaren Racing. Those woods yielded chiffchaff, blackcap and a single willow warbler, all singing but none seen! Also still brightening up the soundscape were singing song thrushes, indeed they barely seemed to stop throughout the evening.

The McLaren land is a large, rolling meadow although this year, it seemed more grasses than flowers. That didn't put off the meadow pipits that evidently breed there and the single swift overhead.

At about 9.30pm, we moved onto the common proper, short of gorse perhaps but with a good covering of heather, certainly enough for the resident stonechat. I am unsure if any of the group managed to see a Dartford warbler but they are there. It was then a case of waiting and listening out for the 'churring' song of the males and it is fair to say they kept us waiting for a while. On the other hand, whilst we were awaiting the main act, the support turned up in the shape of a roding woodcock, a bird we had missed the last couple of years.

Then the wait was over and we heard the churring, one quite distant and then a second started up a little closer. It is when the churring stops that you start looking because then they might be in flight with an equally distinct flight call. This one duly obliged and gave the group good if fairly brief flight views. This bird then perched on an outstretched branch in classic pose, long enough for some of the group to get views through Ron's scope.

We heard a few more nightjar and saw one more in the gathering dusk before heading back. An ultimately successful evening in perhaps less than ideal conditions, underlined when the heavens opened not too long after we finished!
Neil Bew