Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Nightjar Success Story

What good news - this bird was released back into the wild thanks to the good care and rehabilitation given by Jean Thorpe.  If you remember, this bird was brought into her,  having become exhausted during its migratory flight, and landed on a freighter in the middle of the North Sea.

Aren't they amazing birds - what beautiful feather colouring, the grey-brown, mottled, streaked and barred plumage provides ideal camouflage in the daytime, when they stay motionless on the ground, looking like dead leaves or tree bark.

Nightjars are nocturnal birds and can be seen hawking for food at dusk and dawn.  They eat insects, moths and beetles. They have large eyes and a huge gape, surrounded by “whiskers” so are well adapted for catching their prey.

With pointed wings and a long tail, their shape is similar to a kestrel or cuckoo. They have an almost supernatural reputation with their silent flight and their mythical ability to steal milk from goats. The first indication that a nightjar is near is usually the male's churring song, rising and falling in a long call ('nightjar' means night-churr).  

I've spent evenings out watching nightjars and it is a magical bird to see and experience.  Another sound they make is a slapping or hand-clapping noise, caused as the birds clap their wings in flight.  They also have a strange middle claw, with serrations on it, which act like a comb for preening their feathers.

Here is a collagraph print I made of a Nightjar hidden on the forest floor.

Collagraph print of Nightjar by Jennifer Tetlow


  1. I love a happy ending!

    Your pencil drawing is a huge hit, off the the framers this week! Thanks so much, Bx

  2. It is a beautiful bird indeed.

  3. Belinda, so do I! And, my pleasure, glad you like it.

    Ellen, so many people say they are ugly, but I do find a primitive beauty there. Really amazing when they open their beaks, which do open really wide, there are these whiskers all round the edge, like hairy lips, all the better for catching moths I believe!

  4. gorgeous collagraph - it's my favourite form of printmaking

  5. Thanks Vivien - I'm just learning, and love the 'surprise' in printmaking, when you lift the blankets and pull back the paper it feels very exciting! Collagraph is quite like sculpting as I cut into the board with a sharp knife, and then build up the textures. I'm trying to build up to dry-point and full etching.


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