I recently wrote about our birding/camping trip to Lochinvar N.P. but I deliberately saved the best sightings for last. On our last day, after we had packed up camp, we were “birding” our way to a nice lunch spot when Leslie stops the vehicles, gets out and says, “This looks like a good spot. Let’s go for a little walk.” I have no idea what made this particular spot look good, but we had not gone twenty feet hardly when we flushed a barn owl out of a nearby tree.
He hung around for a while and let Jonathan get some good shots of him.
He moved around a bit, as if trying to get away from us. We seemed to be disturbing him a bit so we moved on.
We hadn’t gone far when we flushed another bird, this time a Mozambique Nightjar, and we had practically stepped on it. In fact there were four of them and once one had flushed, they all got nervous and flushed a few different times. It almost felt magical as we walked through that area as the nightjars would flush randomly, fly almost straight up about 15 feet in the air and then drop back to the ground in a different place.
They are practically impossible to see when they sit still, even at only ten feet away, so you have to watch carefully where they land in order to find them. With five pairs of eyes to watch, we had good luck spotting them once they landed. When our group stopped moving, the nighjars settled down as well and we were able to get some good views and photos.
This first picture hopefully shows how hard the nightjars are to see. Even this picture is quite zoomed in and then cropped. You can probably find him, but it shows their camouflage well. (Photo by Leslie Reynolds.)
Below is the same photo, cropped even further so that you can see the beautiful details and camouflage on this guy.
Unfortunately all the flushing had attracted the attention of a nearby hawk – I think it was a Gabar Goshawk but can’t remember for sure – and one of the nightjars had to take flight to avoid being caught. We watched for some time as the nightjar flew higher and higher with the hawk following. Eventually another hawk also joined the chase, and then they flew too high for us to see them. We are not sure but we think the nightjar may have escaped. We had settled down to eating lunch a little ways away, thinking we were far enough not to disturb them any further, but again the nightjars began flushing up from nearby. And again there were four of them. Of course we are unsure if this were perhaps a different group or the same group with a fifth member that we were unaware of earlier. When they settled down again, Jonathan got some nice photos of this one which had ended up on some comparatively bare earth.
There’s a saying in ChiTonga, “Abota mapepe akaya kuli lukumba,” which means, “What beautiful feathers the nightjar has.” The saying is literally about nightjars which are rarely seen during the day, but instead hide their beauty from others by being active at night. Figuratively, the saying is used to refer to someone who has some talent that they are hiding instead of sharing it with the community. We were happy the nightjars (and the owl) didn’t hide their beauty from us this day. They were two of the best sightings that we had had, and a great way to end our birding weekend.