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Nightjar-ing deserves a quiet night

We started our latest Sussex Birding Mini-Trip at Knepp Wildlands, where a quick circuit as a 'pre-amble' to the evening birding produced Garden Warbler, White Storks, Lesser Whitethroat, a couple of Bullfinches and a Treecreeper.

Garden Warbler. Sussex guided bird tours with Wildstarts.
Garden Warbler belting it out
White Storks. Sussex guided bird tours with Wildstarts.
White Storks at dinnertime!

As the evening went on, it was time to head to the main heathland destination. As we sorted out our sandwiches, a singing Woodlark flew over the car park and a Spotted Flycatcher patrolled the margins. Two very welcome bonus species!

Spotted Flycatcher. Sussex guided bird tours with Wildstarts.
Spotted Flycatcher taking a break from sallying after flying insects

We heard a familiar fuzzy 'churr' in the heather and quickly spotted the male Dartford Warbler perched out in the open. It teased us for a while afterwards, only affording occasional glimpses, but eventually we all enjoyed relaxed viewing of this beautiful bird at full zoom in the telescope.

Dartford Warbler. Sussex guided bird tours with Wildstarts.
Male Dartford Warbler — no other warbler can compete with that rich wine-red colour

About 15 minutes after sunset on this calm and peaceful evening, we heard the first Nightjar 'churring' in the distance. Shortly afterwards, one seemed to be coming from much closer and we were thrilled to get a short but very clear flight view as it emerged from a pine in front of us.

Nightjar. Sussex guided bird tours with Wildstarts.
A song-post practically made for a Nightjar to churr from

The rest of the evening was something special indeed, with fantastic in-telescope views of two singing male Nightjars in the tops of small trees, while the light was still good enough to appreciate their cryptic plumage. Watching these males in flight, with their bright white wing and tail markings, was spectacular too!

To top it off, a Woodcock flew right past us as the light truly faded, giving everybody a fantastic end to the evening!


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