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Nightjar in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

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  • Not uncommon on Dorset heaths only active at dusk and difficult to photograph.



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Dorset is something of a stronghold for the nightjar. Whilst they breed across all of the southern counties of England, parts of Wales and then also on the moors of northern England and southern Scotland it is the Dorset heathlands that seem to suit them best. They are summer visitors to breed here and they are something of a mysterious bird and not much seems to be known about their migration and where they overwinter but it some apparently get right down to southern Africa. That air of mystery surrounds them here too as they fly at dusk in erie light emitting their wonderfully unique churring 'song'; they are difficult to see by day as they are so well camouflaged and remain quite inactive unless disturbed.

The first nightjar reports seem to start in week 17 in late April but it is week 19 in early May when they are reported more frequently. There are then a good number of reports each week until week 26 at the end of June but then they become harder to find as the singing season comes to an end. By week 28 in the middle of July reports become very scarce but they do continue until week 37 in September with most of the reports from the latter months being of passage migrants on their way south.

There are records from fifty sites in Dorset and most of these will be of encounters with breeding birds and the distribution maps shows that the heaths of eastern Dorset and Purbeck are the key breeding sites. There are also reports from further west along the Fleet and the coast line on towards Lyme Regis and these will, in general, be of passage birds. A couple of inland woodland sites seem to have breeding nightjars too.

By far the best way to see nightjars and  to add them to your Dorset list is to go on one of the special evening walks at Arne arranged specifically to see nightjar; they never fail!   


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This chart shows the number of reports per week for this species where there are reports (see note below):

The intention of this chart is to show which weeks during the year this species is most likely to be seen. See note above about multiple reports of a single specimen!

This chart shows the number of reports per month for this species where there are reports (see note below):

The intention of this chart is to show which months during the year this species is most likely to be seen. Remember that is is the total number of REPORTS; there may be several reports for just one occurrence of the species (that is to say, a number of individuals may have been to see a single specimen of a species).

This chart shows the number of reports for each year for this species where there are reports (see note below):

Contributors to the Nature of Dorset have seen this species at these locations:

Please note that the markers show APPROXIMATE locations of the observation, not exact locations! You can find often find out more information about location by looking at the original tweet. Click on any marker to see the name of the location and then click on the location name to see more details about the site where available.

This chart shows the number of reports per site for this species. Hover over any column to see the site and the number of reports:

Ckick/tap the list icon for an alphabetical list of all the posts in this series from where you can access any that are of interest to you

Name Peter Orchard
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Twitter Screen Name peterorchardnod
Location Wareham, Dorset, UK

This is a feed of contributions to my main website; the Nature of Dorset. My 'high five' are the five most interesting species from my walks in Dorset somewhere

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