As Yellowhammers sang nearby, we met the Exmoor ponies whose job it was to reduce the amount of Purple Moor-grass on the heath. Then, in front of a spectacular sunset, the very knowledgable ranger, Nathan, talked to the group about Nightjar identification and behaviour. At dusk, we set off on a transect across the reserve and almost straight away, at the ecotone between heath and conifer plantation, we heard the exotic churring of a male Nightjar. He flew overhead, his white markings obvious even in the fading light.
Moving on a bit further into the reserve, we were treated to a spectacular display by 3 Nightjars, which were assumed to be a pair and their fledgling. They hawked for moths, perched in the trees, clapped wings and called to each other, whilst in the distance, another churring male indicated the presence of another pair. As we stood and watched the birds, I caught sight of a shooting star.
Leaving the Nightjars to it, we joined David from the Norman Lockyer Observatory who showed us Jupiter and 4 of its moons, Mars and Saturn, complete with rings, through his huge telescope.
I can’t wait to introduce the kids to Nightjars, when they are old enough!