BIRDS: Churring Nightjars at Cannock Chase (22nd July 2014)

Choosing a calm evening in July, we set off to an area of Cannock Chase where nightjars had been sighted. I had never seen a nightjar, so if they made an appearance, this would be my first encounter. I joined a man named Phil who I had met during one of many hours watching kingfishers on the River Trent. 

Phil told me that the nightjars arrived at around 9.45pm. We sat and waited in a field as the sun went down. And at 9.45pm as promised, the nightjars made an appearance. We heard a distant ‘churring’ noise to begin with. This is a sign that the nightjars were stationary. When they fly they make more of a ‘goink’ sound and then continue ‘churring’ once they land again.

Unfortunately the wind picked up and despite my best efforts to capture the sound of the nightjars, their sounds were drowned out on camera by the wind.

But, although I enjoy capturing moments on video and camera, sometimes I do have to admit defeat and simply enjoy the moment. And moments like this are unforgettable. 

The nightjars chuured for a while and their silouettes could be seen easily against the night sky. Then came the moment I won’t forget. The nightjars came our way. All three flew around our heads a few times before flying off into the distance. They were obviously curious about our presence as once they were sure we posed no threat they didn’t appear again. 

Taking a photograph was not an option for me. Phil managed to get an excellent photograph of one of the nightjars sitting on a stick. However, this required not only a camera but an external flash, two tripods, an extra long cable and remote. Oh, and plenty of patience!


* Nightjars are nocturnal birds and can be seen hunting for food at dusk

* They hunt for beetles and moths.

* Found on heathlands, moorlands and woodland.

* They arrive in the UK in April/May and leave August/September.


* New Forest

* Dorset

* Thetford Forest

* RSPB Arne, Dorset

* RSPB Aylesbeare, Devon

* RSPB Minsmere and North Warren, Suffolk.

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