Posted 13 August 2012 by Andrew Gardner
A nightjar was heard at Woods Mill earlier this year. Not quite 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square' but still great news as the bad weather has been disastrous for many birds. Last summer there were two evening walks with Sussex Wildlife Trust - one to hear nightingales, the other to hear the elusive nightjar; these take place on several evenings each year and I recommend them highly.
For the nightingale walk a beautiful evening is always a bonus. Setting out from the Woods Mill visitor centre, two miles north of the South Downs near Henfield, after a fascinating slide show and talk by SWT expert Mike Russell, someone claimed to have heard our first nightingale within minutes. Others remained sceptical but in any case we heard a song thrush, which was delightful in itself. Mike led us to a spot where he was fairly sure nightingales were nesting and sure enough, right on cue, one began to sing.
Strolling through the dusky Sussex meadows our first nightingale was soon joined by others. And then more. Clearly they were appreciating this quiet habitat and I do hope these intriguing little birds, so plain to look at but goodness what a voice, will keep on coming back.
A few weeks later we headed to what I admit seemed an unlikely place to find nightjars - Buchan Country Park. Somehow nightjars make you think of tales from the Arabian Nights, but here we were just on the outskirts of Horsham and St Leonard’s Forest hoping to hear that evocative churring sound. Well, I'd have to say this time we weren't so lucky, though after a thorough search of all the places Mike hoped to hear them, we did finally come upon a pair that obliged and it was wonderful to hear them. But it was a fleeting appearance, so Mike took us to the lake with a sonar detector to listen to bats instead - unexpected, great fun and truly fascinating.
Rural Sussex is a great place for birders, both serious and amateur. We have plenty of superb holiday properties within easy reach of Woods Mill at Henfield and Buchan Park, check out our dedicated West Sussex holiday cottages.