This rather odd message buzzed onto my phone on Saturday morning, and it was only when I saw the accompanying photo that it started to make sense. Nightjars are summer migrants, arriving back on heathland and clearfell forestry nesting areas in mid-May, where males display with an eerie ‘churring’ call from dusk. During the day, they sleep on the bough of a tree or fallen trunk, relying on their cryptic, mottled plumage to remain safe.
The Nightjar roosting at RSPB Conwy was just metres away from a busy footpath, but rather than selecting a tree, had chosen the back of a model heron placed in the growing reeds by staff as part of a children’s quiz trail! It was found by visiting birdwatcher Sean McCormack, who shared this video on Twitter, just moments after making the discovery. The Nightjar remained on its chosen roost all day, ignoring the steady stream of admirers who had a rare opportunity to study the bird in detail, right down to its ‘rictal bristles’. These are whiskers along the upper beak of nightjars, which may play a role in navigation, foraging and collision avoidance at night, although the exact function remains unknown. Not surprisingly, having lifted off to feed on moths on Saturday night, the Conwy nightjar was not seen again.
It had hitherto been a quiet week for unusual birds, as breeding species worked hard to find food and protect their eggs and young from the cold, wet weather. Sadly one Osprey chick from broods of three at Glaslyn and Cors Dyfi died at the weekend, but farther south, the first chick hatched at the Llyn Clywedog Osprey nest. A Storm Petrel found dead in the Crafnant Valley may have been a victim of Sunday’s storm. A Black Tern has fed off Cemlyn Bay since Friday, roosting with a couple of thousand Sandwich Terns on the lagoon island, where North Wales Wildlife Trust is celebrating 50 years of its leasing the nature reserve from the National Trust. There's a fascinating blog here about the history of the site before it was acquired for the nation.
A Scaup is at RSPB Valley Wetlands, a complex that in 1988 recorded the only case of this northern species nesting in Wales, and a Bonaparte’s Gull from North America was at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands on Sunday.
A new national avifauna, The Birds of Wales, will be published in July. Liverpool University Press is accepting pre-orders for £25 (plus p&p), which is £20 below the published price. Click here for details and to order, using the code WALES50 to get the discount.