Hamsters and Red-necked Nightjars

Taken from Flying over the Pyrenees, standing on the plains

It wasn’t long before a bird flew up from under someone’s feet and drifted silently to rest in the shade of a nearby pine tree. Duly beckoned with urgent gestures and whispers the clients all gathered round, Kevin at the forefront, and with raised binoculars we all stood in silent admiration of a Red-necked Nightjar’s beautiful, intricately patterned plumage. Perhaps it was a minute, perhaps two, as the bird sat stiller than a sentinel, surveying us with the merest slit of an opened eye before taking flight once more, aware that its cloak of invisibility had slipped from its mantle.

                           Red-necked nightjar

No-one could resist another look, and so we were all enticed to follow our reluctant star a little further. I strode forward with the rest, but then something halted me in my tracks: there concealed in the dip between two hummocks and the edge of the pinewood I saw a parked car, and two figures quickly separating. My first instinct was to display a knowing grin, but a flash of recognition wiped it instantly from my face. I knew both members of the couple, and also that both were married to partners other than the one they had obviously been embracing. They were parents of children who went to the same school as my sons. Out here! In the middle of my Red-necked Nightjar site! Who would have guessed? I crouched down and backed off as quickly and surreptitiously as I could, clenching my teeth and praying that they had not seen me.

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