Yesterday evening I guided James, Richard, Myra, Mike and Deborah on a short private tour for three target species in the South Downs.
First up was Little Owl. After enjoying a couple of Yellowhammers on the way to the birds' favoured trees, we carefully scanned some of their favourite perches. Spring is the best time to look for them really, when the trees are still bare but the sun encourages the owls to bathe in view. The summer greenery was making it a bit of a challenge this time!
With careful scanning from a few different angles, I eventually picked up an adult Little Owl chilling out in the upper branches, letting everyone get a close-up look through the telescope.
Everybody happy, we moved on to try for Barn Owl. We set ourselves up and started to wait, which was no problem as we had a couple of Green Sandpipers and Reed Warblers to watch, as well as the antics of several Grey Herons. Suddenly, a Barn Owl came into view, flying straight towards us with a vole danging from its feet. It passed slowly enough that we all managed to really savour the moment before it disappeared behind the trees. A little later on, it was back quartering over the meadow. We couldn't have hoped for more!
We switched habitat again for dusk, with a heathland vigil starting with a busy pair of Stonechats and a typically elusive pair of Dartford Warblers.
Nightjar was our quarry here. We first heard a couple of tantalising flight calls in the distance, before a male floated like a paper plane over our heads and hawked for moths just where we were hoping one might. Even better, it showed us its two favourite perches from which to spot and intercept passing insects.
At one point, we had it in the telescope in the fading light when it was joined by its mate on the same branch! While Roe Deer barked in the distance, at least one other male Nightjar started churring on the other side of the track.