Sunday, 27 June 2010

Night to remember

 Sunset strip, London Area-style.

Back in the spring I missed what I thought would be the only chance of European Nightjar in London this year when a migrant seen well in Regent's Park failed to rematerialise (unsurprisingly) for a second evening. But then rumours emerged of a possible breeding territory in more suitable habitat away from the built-up zone. We had to give it a try and, after a few postponed attempts because the weather didn't seem ideal, it was suddenly game on this evening.

The flash catches the incredible eyeshine as the bird coasts past.

We arrived just as the sun started going down, walked to the likely area, got in position and stood patiently listening to the asthmatic refrain of a Yellowhammer - but little else. Finally, with the light failing, distant churring started up, and we were suddenly in business. There seemed to be only one male and it moved around a lot out of sight, but ultimately that was to our advantage as twice it hawked overhead - hence these poor record shots (I seem to be saying that too often these days), taken with a weak flash in the last rays of ambient glow at dusk.

It was an ethereal experience, and made all the more surreal when we flushed a group of small birds on some rough ground in the half light. Finally pinning them down, and hearing them, we were able to confirm them as Woodlarks - an excellent bonus. We left them in peace to settle down for the night as a Tawny Owl hooted in the distance - time for bed all round.

Woodlark at dusk: major bonus bird.

London year-list update:
186. European Nightjar.

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