There was great excitement last month, when we heard about a sighting of a nightjar on the Stiperstones. The bird was clearly seen hovering and calling and we even have a photo, which I have shared on the nature reserve Facebook page. This is only the second record that we know of for the Stiperstones. Although they can breed as late as August, and this bird was calling, we can’t count it as a breeding record, unless we get some more sightings.
Nightjars are fascinating birds, which only come out at night, unless disturbed. They have a characteristic flight as they hawk for insects such as moths and beetles, generally over heathland although they often use newly cleared woodlands, where they make shallow nest scrapes on the open ground. They are summer visitors to the UK where they take advantage of the large number of moths particularly on heathland sites such as the Stiperstones.
Nightjars are incredible agile fliers with long wings and a tail that is often fanned out for extra manoeuvrability. When perched their short head and long wings and tail give them an unmistakable profile, although possibly similar to a cuckoo. Their plumage is a mottled grey/brown which gives them excellent camouflage during the day, when they are rarely seen, but one of the most notable feature of the males are the white patches on their wings and outer tail feathers. These show up well at night and are used for display purposes, indeed one way to attract them is to wave white handkerchiefs about, which can attract them close in. The main thing to listen out for though is the call of the male, which is a long drawn out frog-like rattle, called churring. This can be quite loud, although it is known for its ventriloquist properties, so it can be difficult to locate the bird when heard.
September should see the start of the clearance work on the newly purchased Bergam Wood, south of the Stiperstones village, as the conifer trees (many of which have fallen over) are removed from the site. Hopefully this will be carried out fairly quickly so as to minimise any disruption to the road below. Once the trees are off we will need to fence the site and make sure that the footpath is in good condition as well as consider how we best protect the mine and it’s entrance, so that it is safe but enhances it for the Lesser Horseshoe bats that currently inhabit it.
Once the site is safe to use we will start planning its restoration, which should involve some acorn collection from our woodland at the north end of the hill. I will let you know in a future ‘Notes from the Hill’ when we might hold such an event.
Thanks once again to everyone who donated to the purchase of Bergam Wood, it was a great community effort, and will in time be a great addition to the National Nature Reserve.
Simon Cooter and the Natural England staff at Rigmoreoak
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