The Nightjars on both Yateley Common Country Park and Castle Bottom NNR have put on a spectacular show for our visitors at this years twilight walks!

Every year we run Nightjar Twilight Walks out onto the heathlands of both Yateley and Castle Bottom in search of the elusive Nightjar. In June we ran the Castle Bottom walk on the 17th when 6 people attended the event and joined Ranger Jo and local Birder Josie Hewitt on an exploration across the heathlands -the group were lucky enough to be serenaded throughout the evening with several birds displaying. And this month on the 15th July Ranger Jean led a similar walk out onto Yateley Common where the group of 17 visitors were treated to a privileged view of 3-4 different individual birds flying, swooping and churring from near by trees.

Josie Hewitt Nightjar Photo

Photo of a Nightjar perched on a post taken by Josie Hewitt, http://blog.josiehewittphotography.co.uk/

 

A trip out with one of the Rangers gives visitors the opportunity to see the Nightjar in its natural environment, as the sun goes down they come out to feed on moths, flies and beetles and males attempt to attract a mate by displaying. The males are easily recognised for their deep guttural ‘churring’ sound which can not be mistake for anything else and can be quite spooky as the light goes. On a good night you can hear several males churring in loud competition, before taking off in silent flight -perfectly designed the Nightjar is able to glide effortlessly through the sky, with males flashing the white bands on their wings and clapping their wings together in order to impress the females.

Nightjars are on of our red listed bird species, meaning that their populations are at threat, locally we have a wealth of wildlife that relies on the heathland habitat but in particular the Nightjar, Dartford Warbler and Woodlark nest on the heaths, and as such our local heathland sites are managed as designated Special Protection Areas (SPA), providing much need habitat on which Nightjars will nest.

Nightjars have a certain mystery about them as they only come out at night and are very rarely seen during the day when they will sit on their nests, which are formed in dips and hollows on the ground. Nightjars are so well camouflaged that they look like branches and sticks laying on the ground, this offers them some protection from predators who cannot easily see them. The young once fledged fly to Africa where they live as juveniles returning for the first time as adults. Each year they over-winter in Africa and then make the long flight back to Britain to nest between the end of April and Start of September.

 

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Photo of a Nightjar sat on it’s nest, with a close up of the head on the left hand side, taken by Ranger Jean

 

Visitors on this years Yateley Common walk had this to say about their visit:

“This was a fabulous evening with many sightings of the nightjars. The ranger was very knowledgeable about the area and made for a fantastic evening.”

“Absolutely exceeded expectation! We had a wonderful display of nightjars in flight and were serenaded for over an hour. Thank you Jean for an amazing experience.  So glad I signed up for this.”

summer fun poster 2015

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Residents’ views heard on Yateley Common fencing planning application.

A joint application to the Planning Inspectorate for permission to erect fences that would enable conservation grazing on the Common has been withdrawn, following consultation with local residents. Now their feedback is being used to develop a modified application to graze a smaller part of the Common.

This would provide an opportunity to illustrate how the proposals would work, how the grazing could be implemented and would enable any technical concerns raised in response to the original application to be addressed.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council’s Countryside Service said: “We would like to thank everyone who took the time to submit their views on the application. Both organisations look forward to working with residents and local groups to ensure that this very special site is protected and conserved for the future.

“Both the County Council and the Wildlife Trust strongly believe that the introduction of grazing is the most effective and sustainable way to protect this internationally protected and precious habitat for the future.

“Heathland sites such as this require a great deal of management to ensure that the rare plants and species associated with Yateley Common are not squeezed out by the encroachment of scrub and woodland. Grazing would support a more comprehensive approach to the future management of this site.”

“We need to ensure everyone understands the aims of the project and how it will work in practice. With that in mind, we have decided to withdraw the current application to fence the Common and will be considering a revised plan in due course.”

Yateley Common is covered by both national and European nature conservation designations, recognising the importance of the site as a habitat for a range of specialist and rare species, including Nightjars and Dartford Warblers.

In January 2015 the Council applied jointly with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to the Planning Inspectorate for permission for the fences to enable the introduction of conservation grazing on the land. The application was submitted following a long period of research, engagement and consultation with the public and relevant organisations.

Elliott Fairs, Living Landscape Manager at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said “Naturally, we are disappointed that the project has been paused at this stage, especially when we felt that real progress had been made working with the local community to develop the proposals. However, reintroducing grazing livestock back onto Yateley Common remains the best thing for local wildlife, and we will continue to work towards this goal.”

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Yateley Common, Nightjar walk poster, 2015

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Dawn Chorus walk Castle Bottom 2015_(HF000006712889)

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A trial run of pond dipping at Zebon Copse proved fruitful, finding damselfly and dragonfly larvae as well as lots of fresh water hoglice. Book a place soon for a chance to see these weird and wonderful pond creatures.

 

Easter Poster v2, 2015Book now to avoid disappointment: http://ow.ly/ISukv

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