Last week when we were travelling back from Geranium to Murray Bridge I observed a bird species I have not seen too many times in my birding life, a Spotted Nightjar. In fact, checking my birding database I had only ever only seen this species once before. That occasion was on my brotherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s farm in the Murray Mallee near Loxton.
We were out in the paddocks spotlighting for rabbits and foxes at the time and we flushed the bird from the grass. It was quite easy to identify it in the beam of the high powered spotlight. I was able to follow the bird as it flew away because I was operating the spot on that occasion. There have to be some benefits to getting frozen on a frosty night on the back of a farm ute.
On this occasion, however, we were travelling at about 95kph along the Mallee Highway heading home. It was a still, quiet evening after the storms and rain earlier in the day. The moon had not yet appeared. As we came around a bend in the road a Spotted Nightjar suddenly flew from the middle of the road through the carÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s headlights and off into the scrub lining the highway. It may have even flown over the trees into the neighbouring paddocks Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it was hard to tell because we only had a fleeting glimpse as it flew off.
Nightjars are nocturnal. There are three species found in Australia; the Spotted, the White-Throated and the Large-Tailed. They are closely related to another species, the Australian Owlet-Nightjar which we often see or hear at home. The Spotted Nightjar is common and widespread throughout mainland Australia. It lives in a wide range of habitats, not just the mallee area where we observed it. These include dry eucalypt woodlands, mulga, pine scrubs and grasslands.