Memorable moments with nature: Part 10
Many thanks to Warden Mike for collating this lovely series. In these strange times, it’s been a pleasure to revisit our memories. It’s perhaps a good job that Mike didn’t restrict our favourites to the Thames Basin Heaths. If he’d done so, a dusk encounter with an ethereal nightjar may well have featured in almost all of them.
My own 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.
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.
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.