Listen out for the nightjars on Headley Heath

Picture of a nightjar

Nightjars are summer visitors, arriving in April - May and staying until the end of August when they return to central Africa for the winter. They travel huge distances flying 20,000 kms in their migration to the UK covering about 400 kms per night. That’s far and fast!

Masters of disguise

Once here and settled, they are very difficult to spot. Their brown, grey and cream feathers provide excellent camouflage and they easily blend in with the foliage. When they perch on trees and bushes they sit along the branches rather than across them, so they don’t stand out. They rest during the day, often on the ground, and only become active as the light falls. Like owls they fly silently to feed on insects and moths.  

However what is distinctive is their song - a long drawn-out churring that rises and falls. Once heard, it’s not forgotten.   

How to experience these rare birds

Headley Heath is one of the best places to hear nightjars. Its heathland and open woodland is the ideal habitat for them. Come at dusk on a calm, warm summer’s evening. Head in a south-westerly direction from the picnic area keeping to the south of Bellamoss pond. There are a couple of large silver birch trees that are near the nesting area.   

You may well hear them but not see them. They are ground-nesting birds and are vulnerable to attack by dogs and foxes so we have fenced off some areas to provide protection. They are rare birds and we want to increase the numbers. Please help us to protect our ground nesting birds by keeping your dog on a lead.