A huddle of about 20 birdwatchers gathered at the end of Kings Ride at Camberley in Surrey, for the annual nightjar survey on Barossa and Poors Allotment military training area on 12 June.
Ben Habgood of Surrey Wildlife Trust, who leads the surveys, asked us to meet at 8.30pm so, as usual, I got there early to see what birds were around. I went to the spot where I have seen dartford warblers in the past but was disappointed to find the heather was being swamped by fir trees, making it a less favourable habitat for dartfords, and I didn’t see one.
Ben explained what we were to do and where we were going. The territory was divided into seven zones. This time I was to go with Bill to zone 7, in the north-west corner, which was within the military live-firing area, known as the range-danger area or RDA. I was pleased to be going somewhere new.
James Adler from Surrey Wildlife Trust drove Bill and me to zone 7. We were to walk a triangle in the cleared area of heathland and record all the churring nightjars and any other wildlife.
James dropped us at about 9.20; it was still daylight.
Bill was familiar with this area as he comes here often, by agreement with the Ministry of Defence. He knows where you might see dartford warblers and firecrest, but sadly we saw neither.
We were quite close to the noisy A321 Sandhurst bypass with the constant hum of traffic. Our first nightjar began churring at about 9.45, some way off. As we walked on we heard others, and also saw woodcock.
There was a magnificent sunset with the trees outlined against the sky.
We reckoned we heard five nightjars churring from all parts of the site. Some did their flight call too. At the very end we saw one fly down from a tree to the ground.
James came to collect us at 10.40. He said that four to five nightjars was the usual number for zone 7. We rejoined the others at Kings Ride and heard how they fared. It sounded like it had been another successful evening. I certainly enjoyed my twilight walk over the heath.