It was two years since I had been out on a heath counting nightjars and I was happy to return. On 9 June I arrived early to wander around; I am always keen to explore this habitat in the hope of seeing birds which do not appear in the Chilterns (tree pipit, woodlark and Dartford warblers for instance). Everything was quiet at 7.30 in the evening, but I heard then saw a stonechat, which cheered me as I hadn’t yet seen one this year.
At 8pm a group of us gathered at our usual meeting point on the edge of the Barossa and Poor’s Allotment military training area at Camberley in Surrey. The count was organised by the Surrey Wildlife Trust. Ben Habgood and Stuart Fleming from the trust explained the procedure and divided us into groups. I was with three others and our plot was just to the west of our meeting place, in fact similar to the one I covered two years ago.
The route around the plot had been marked out for us on the map. It took us up a hill, a good vantage point, so after walking around once in daylight we sat on the hill and waited for dusk and the first nightjars.
The churring began at around 9.30, just the odd bird at first and then as it got darker we could hear more. There were also woodcock roding with their piercing cries.
The highlight was towards the end when suddenly a nightjar, which had been churring close by, came out to investigate us and flew in circles over our heads.
We stopped at around 10.40, having seen or heard four in our path, with others further afield. We await the results but I got the impression that the numbers this year were promising.