Nightjars on the Mendips

I spent this evening at Burrington Ham in the hope of encountering European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), and was successful at about 10.15 when a single male gave a few bursts of song, and showed itself briefly, To visit this site, park at the location shown on the map below, and walk up the path which leads west along the plateau, parallel with Burrington Combe. You will arrive in Nightjar habitat (bracken with clumps of trees and shrubs) very soon.

Nightjars are present on the Mendip Hills in two main areas: Burrington and Priddy. Several are present each year in the Burrington area, where birds can be found at Rowberrow Warren, Burrington Ham and at Rod’s Pot, which is midway between the two. Here the habitat is scrubby moorland/heathland, but Nightjars also inhabit conifer plantations in their early stages, abandoning them when the trees become too high. This is the habitat used at Priddy, where the birds are found at Stock Hill forest.

If you’ve not heard or seen Nightjar, I’d highly recommend a visit to one of these sites. Pick a warm still night, and listen out for a highly distinctive churring noise given from just after sunset. This song is typically given from a tree branch above head-height. Birds will also take display flights and feeding flights, and will often fly very close to people, enabling their white wing and tail markings to be seen. They will be present through until August.

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