Jul 27 2023

Memorable Moments on the Heath 5: Nightjar

Welcome to the fifth in a series, compiled by Warden Mike, featuring the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership team recalling memorable moments on the heath.

Communications Officer Sarah: Nightjar

My most memorable moments certainly include Nightjar encounters. The ones that stick in my mind are the birds I’ve seen fly in that lovely warm light you get as the sun is setting. Magical.

But there is another Nightjar encounter I had as a child that often comes into my mind. I can’t remember the year, but I was with my parents and we were camping near Aldershot, for the Army Show. I remember walking on what I now know is heathland, and I remember white fencing, so I think we may have been at Tweseldown racecourse, now part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area.

Old photo of a young girl standing beside an old-fashioned brown ridge tent

Here I am, camping 1977-style

It was a nice day and we were out for a walk. I clearly remember seeing two medium-sized eggs on the ground to the side of the path. Right on the ground, under a scraggy shrub. No bird in sight. My parents were very responsible when it came to wildlife and the countryside and would not have let me investigate the ‘nest’, but it obviously made an impression because I remember insisting that we went back to check the eggs were alright.

The return visit has stuck with me all this time. We returned to the spot in the early evening, and to my horror and disappointment, the eggs were gone! I gazed in disbelief! But as I took in the scene, I realised the eggs weren’t missing, they were hidden by the perfectly camouflaged bird sitting on them. I had no idea what I was looking at, but a flick through our bird book revealed the only possibility. A Nightjar! Imagine my youthful pride and delight at spotting something so unusual and special.

Photograph of a camouflaged Nightjar on the nest

A camouflaged Nightjar on the nest

So that was my first encounter with this marvellous bird. Little did I know that years later I would be back on the Special Protection Area helping to conserve this wonderful place and its fascinating inhabitants, and helping other youngsters make their own memories. Funny how things work out.

Thames Basin Heaths Partnership


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