Rare nocturnal bird the nightjar have been spotted at RSPB The Lodge nature reserve, near Tarmac’s Sandy Heath Quarry.
The RSPB has announced that a single pair of nightjar has nested on an area of restored heathland on the reserve, home of the charity’s UK headquarters for the first time since 1973.
The pair were first spotted by a local birdwatcher, when he heard the “churring” call of a male nightjar. Later, the male and female birds were seen engaging in mating displays, signally their intent to breed.
Peter Bradley, Senior Site Manager at The Lodge nature reserve said: “We’re over the moon, not only because these amazing birds have returned to the reserve and appear to be breeding here for the first time in so many years, but that they have chosen to nest on a part of the reserve where we expressly set about recreating the kind of heathland habitat used by nesting nightjars that has historically been lost for this and many other parts of the country. It is a great success story for The Lodge and for everyone who has been involved in the heathland re-creation work here over the last 15 years.”
Michael Charlton, Estate Manager at Tarmac said: “We work closely in partnership with the RSPB and are excited about the possibility of breeding nightjars at the site. We are currently working together to create similar habitats on the restored areas of the quarry and hope that more nightjar will come to Sandy to take advantage of this new habitat in the future.”
Nightjar nest on the ground, using their cryptic camouflage to stay hidden during the day, and only come out after dark to feed on moths and other flying insects, making them notoriously elusive and difficult to see. This means that while all the signs point to their having a nest and chicks, confirmation that they have successfully reared young, and how many, will have to wait until after they have finished nesting.
Between 1972 and 1992, the nightjar population decreased by almost 50% due primarily to habitat loss. Since then there have been signs that nightjar numbers have increased, although they have not returned to a lot of the places they once bred. Their recovery is thought to be down to efforts to restore lost heathland habitat.
Tarmac are currently working in partnership with the RSPB to create heathland and acid grassland on the the parts of Sandy Heath quarry that we have finished quarrying. This includes part funding a warden to assist with the restoration project. We are also working with the RSPB to encourage farmland birds by sowing wild bird seed mixes on our arable fields surrounding the quarry.