The project I have set up in my village called Nature Watch Corfe Mullen held it’s first ever wildlife event last night – a Twilight Walk on Barrow Hills hoping to encounter Nightjars and Glow-worms. But did we see any?
Searching for Nightjars
I’ve got to admit the weather was not kind to us. Any dreams of a balmy-summer stroll on the heath went out the window. All afternoon the wind howled and then the rain started lashing down at 5pm. We were due to meet at 9pm. I honestly started to wonder whether anyone would turn up on such a cold wet night.
I’m thought of as being a bit “mad”, in as much that I will quite often sit on dark heaths at night waiting for wildlife, but I didn’t know whether local residents would be quite as “mad”. I crossed my fingers that they were!
First one car arrived, then another, then another, then people on foot. Young and old dressed in their winter woollies and waterproofs, grasping their torches and binoculars and all with a smile.
Setting off in search!
After a quick intro talk we set off up the path leading to Barrow Hills Heath and I took the opportunity to count everyone. Thirty-six in total. Thirty-eight included me and our walk leader, Nicky Hoar from Dorset Wildlife Trust, who also lives in Corfe Mullen and has been listening to and watching these particular nightjar’s for years.
We had only just arrived at Nicky’s “chosen” spot on the heath when we heard our first nightjar. It’s really hard to describe their song (or “churr”. Some people have likened it to a tractor-engine, I think it sounds like a giant grasshopper!
If you cup your hands behind your ears it’s easier
to hear the nightjars churring…. honest!
Not long after this we started seeing them flying around. At about the size of a kestrel they aren’t a tiny bird and will come incredibly close to “check you out”, so we managed some great views of a female and two males (who have a white wing-flash).
As an added bonus we also saw a bat hunting for insects (we think it was a Nuctule) and some heard a Dartford Warbler (who was obviously just about to head for bed).
Can we find glow-worms?
Next the hunt was on for glow-worms. We wandered back down nearer to the edge of the heath where it backs onto Diana Way. It wasn’t long before someone spotted our first glow-worm. Then another, then another. The kids were brilliant at finding them and I think the grand total was five in the end.
Adult female glow-worm (left)
Glowing in the night (right)
After lots of ooo’s and ahhh’s at the little green glow-worms (and now very dark) we headed gingerly back to our original meeting place and said our goodbyes.
If you came on the walk, THANK YOU. It wouldn’t have been half as enjoyable without all your questions, chatter and laughter. Thank you also to Nicky our brilliant guide, your enthusiasm and knowledge of the nightjars was addictive.
If you didn’t come…. well, you missed a great evening out on the heath! Maybe, just maybe, we will let you come next time…
By Jane Adams
Nature Watch Corfe Mullen