If you read this blog regularly you will see that John and me spend a bit of time birding and looking for inverts on what we call our 'inland patch'. This is a loose definition of the upland moor areas west and north west of Alnwick.
We tend to prefer nice summer days in these places for dragonflies, butterflies, plants etc, but over the years we have enjoyed some interesting finds away from sites that are more popular. Things like Green Hairstreak, Emperor Moth, Adders, Broad bodied Chaser, Goshawk, Orange Underwing, Birds Nest Orchid, Ring Ouzels, Large Heath, Gold ringed Dragonfly etc have all brightened a 'quiet' Sunday morning.
But what of the times of day when we don't usually visit? Late evening and dusk in particular. We have often mooted checking places out for Nightjars and have never really gotten around to it. Keen for a change, this was to be 'the year'.
Over the dry spell recently we have made a couple of crepuscular trips out to see what we could find and have not been disappointed. On this occasion I won't be giving out locations as there are already known sites where all of these upland species can easily be added to the year list, so forgive me for keeping 'our' birds to ourselves.
Its quite a walk to get to the main spot but we arrived in time to hear the first birds begin 'churring' at 10pm. At first distant, but after a few minutes some sounded closer and there were a few 'goowick' calls too. These birds are so mysterious in looks and lifestyle, they are a highlight in any birding calendar so to have birds flying around our heads all to ourselves was truly life affirming!
A white splashed male came down this ride and circled me at about 20 feet radius. Wing claps and 'g'wick' calls looked either inquisitive or warning me. Then we had three together chasing around like outsized swifts, not at all bothered by our presence. One male landed giving great views on a fallen branch while a female landed nearby and began catching moths in the manner of a giant Spotted Flycatcher. She would drop off her perch low to the deck, swish around and then back to the same vantage point. All no more than 20 yards away for around 10 minutes.
In this game you are totally against the clock. Birds began showing at 10.10pm but by 10.35pm its getting too dark to pick them out except as silhouettes, but that 25 minutes is fantastic!
The next time we are out looking for insects in warm sunshine we will be thinking that out there, hunkered down in the bark are these animated leaf birds sitting maybe watching us through a squinted eye...
Its not all Nightjars either, this scarce Ash-black Slug Limax cinereoniger, the largest of the UK slugs attracted attention while waiting for the birds to show, plus Cuckoo, Snipe, Redpolls galore almost in the dark, 2 Sand Martins low through the trees, again in near darkness were very odd. A barking Roe buck added to the ambience.