24 June 2018

Third Age Birders

RSPB Broadwater Warren

At the end of the longest day of bright sunshine this year, an intrepid group of birders set out for an evening stroll around RSPB Broadwater Warren the other side of Tunbridge Wells.  The hope was to see, or at the very least, hear the elusive nightjar which visits for just a couple of months in the middle of our summer to breed. There was a chance of seeing a roding woodcock in this heathland environment too.

The European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) is a nocturnal summer visitor from Africa.  It isn't hard to understand why this modest, reclusive, mysterious bird became associated with the uncanny and throughout Europe folklore insisted that the nightjar stole milk from goats udders, earning it the name "Goatsucker".  This is a misnomer, but probably results from the birds lurking around livestock to pick up the insects. Nightjars are rarely seen as they sleep during the day, but its appearance lends itself easily to legend.  It has wide, black eyes that shine like a cat's if caught in torchlight.  It has camouflaging, mottled brown feathers and looks like a reptile.  Its pink gape opens very wide to swallow large moths and insects and the beak is surrounded by bristles, presumably to more efficiently hoover up supper on the wing. The churring song sounds almost mechanical and consists of 1,900 notes per minute (who counted?), which it sustains for several minutes at a time. It throws its voice too.  

Luckily for us as after two hours of walking around a largely silent (birdwise) reserve we were able to hear it - at first some way off and then maybe another one nearer although we never actually spotted one in flight. This, despite Victoria's manic white handkerchief waving, which apparently can draw them closer!  Listening out proved rather tricky as the sounds of nearby traffic and a rock music festival on adjacent land competed with any natural noises!  But we did at least achieve our objective and witnessed the rare presence of this weird and wonderful bird!  

Other birds were very thin on the ground, let alone in the trees although of course it was late in the day for them to be much in evidence. Many were heard but not seen. 

Here is our list of "audibles"...…..tree pipit, chaffinch, tawny owl, blackbird, blackcap, goldcrest, wren and nightjar.  "spots" included crow, rook, wood pigeon, willow warbler, great spotted woodpecker, treecreeper, yellow hammer, linnet, magpie, swallow, robin.

Walking the reserve was a pleasure, regardless of the dearth of birds.  Rather thrilling to be out in the wild, but safe amongst friends and feeling the damp, cool air coming up from the ground as darkness fell and 10 pm surprised us!

Rye Harbour - 28th June

Hot on the heels of Broadwater we have our trip to Rye Harbour next week on Thursday to see the nesting terns.  We will meet at The Weald Smokery, TN5 7QL at 10 a.m. for coffee.  This is just off the A21 on the left of the A268 Hawkhurst Road.  We will then head off to Rye Harbour Sussex Wildlife Trust TN31 7TX, congregating in the car park and then walk part of this 465 hectares reserve.  We should be at Rye Harbour by about 11.30 if you want to go straight there.  Please keep in touch. We will plan to eat somewhere around 2.30 - 3 so bring a snack with you if you think you will need this.  Also plenty of water and a hat as the weather forecast is very warm and there is little shelter outside of the hides.

There is room for 4 more people for this trip.  Just let me know.