Look and listen for the Nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus at dusk on warm, still summer evenings. During this time the Nightjar feed on moths and beetles, and with their wide mouth, they are able to catch their prey in flight, and are exceptionally agile fliers. Listen for the churring, a strange mechanical trilling and watch the male during courtship; clap his wings behind his back, showing the white wing spots and white tail, creating a sharp cracking sound.
Nightjars are migratory arriving from Africa in April/May and leaving in August or September and are red listed which means they are globally threatened. For instance being a ground nesting species they are particularly susceptible to disturbance from dogs and walkers.
They feed at dawn and dusk and sleep by day, often roosting lengthwise along a branch or on the ground, where they are protected by an almost impenetrable camouflage.
In the past nightjars suffered needless persecution because of the irrational fears associated with many nocturnal animals and have been given various names by country people such as goat sucker, because of the mistaken belief that they sucked milk from goats (the Latin for goatsucker is Caprimulgus). Nightjars have evolved to exploit open areas of heath for both food and to breed. Lowland heath is just one of the habitats which determines the character of the High Weald landscape. The Management Plan, written specially for the AONB, sets out targets (which encourage everyone) to enhance the ecological function of field and heath. Long term management of heathland - maintaining large open areas (target b), is needed to secure the future of specialist heathland species such as the Nightjar.
Nightjars can be seen in the High Weald at Ashdown Forest and Broadwater Warren and many other sites across the High Weald and through the summer the Sussex Wildlife Trust lead guided walks specifically to hear nightjars.