Sunday, 13 June 2010


On the evening of Saturday 12th June, three people who didn't care about football decided to do something completely different. But before that, I went to see Michele at her mum's place and we had much tea and conversation, interrupted now and then when I rushed to the French windows to photograph some bird or other.

This male Blackbird was trying to convince us that it was unbearably warm and sunny outside (it really wasn't) by sunbathing in various theatrical poses on the fence.

A Dunnock, cleaning up after the House Sparrows under the birdfeeder. I tried to enthuse Michele about this unexciting-looking bird by telling her about the Dunnock sex-life. I think it worked...

And up on the roof, a parent and kid Jackdaw. Amazing how the same species can look so different in youth and maturity - not in plumage but in facial expression. That intensely foolish-looking youngster would not look out of place in the pages of the Beano.

Rob arrived at about 7.50pm and we set off for what used to be The Warren but is now RSPB Broadwater Warren, an area of mostly pine plantation in between Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells. I've long known it as a good site for Nightjars, and the RSPB's plans for the site (lowland heath restoration) should only make things better, Nightjar-wise. It could also bring in other nice heathland wildlife, though the project is very much in its early days.

We parked on the road as the shiny new car park was closed (opening hours 7am-7pm, which seems weird given that the RSPB is pushing this as a good place for dusk birding!) and headed down the trail. It was a lovely still, clear evening, sweetly scented with pine resin and assorted flowers. Many birds were still singing, including Blackcap and Yellowhammer, while lots of moths and other flying insects were out. Way ahead of us on the path, an unidentifiably distant deer crossed, paused to give us a hard stare and then slipped into the trees.

We stopped at a crossroads with a large 'Nightjar Viewpoint' interpretation board, though I was a bit worried that the surrounding vegetation was too high for Nightjars. I had the Bigmos out, in a spirit of wild optimism. By the time the first Woodcock whizzed overhead, squeaking loudly as it went, the light was actually still not that bad. But those Woodcocks are fast - this blurry pic is down to slow AF rather than camera shake.

We heard, inexplicably, several gunshots from nearby at about 9.30pm, which upset Mushu, Michele's dog. Mush had, up til this point, been enjoying herself taking in exciting new smells and so on, but she is terrified of bangs and now started shivering and looking anxiously in the direction of the car park. Obviously we couldn't wait around too much longer... but within 10 minutes a long-winged, long-tailed bird flitted briskly past, and moments later we heard the wonderful unmistakable Nightjar 'churr' from a nearby tall tree which stood alone among much shorter young pines and birches.

Aren't you glad I brought the camera now? There is plenty of camera shake here, plus distance and low light. Result - a record shot but hopefully a recognisable one. The Nightjar sang away from this perch and we all enjoyed good views through the binoculars, before it hopped off its perch and flew off, unfortunately not in our direction. No doubt it might have returned, but anxious dog plus enthusiastic mosquitoes meant it was time to go.

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