This amazing bird is a nightjar, whose folk-names include fern-owl, goat-sucker and dew-fall hawk. This scarce summer migrant hunts for moths, and other insects, at dawn and dusk and sleeps during the day hidden by its incredible camouflage. The males attract mates and defend their territories by making a strange other-worldly churring sound. They probably don’t nest in Binfield, but on rare occasions might be seen or heard here. However, Binfield resident’s actions could play an important role in the future of the local nightjar population. Their preferred habitat is open sandy heath, and they nest on the ground. This makes them susceptible to disturbance by people and dogs during their breeding season.
You may have noticed the proliferation of new parks around the village, but have you found all of them? I have counted seven, four of them in Binfield Parish (Larks Hill, Cabbage Hill, Popes Meadow, Blue Mountain, Peacock Meadow, Piglittle Meadow, and Stokes Farm), with at least one more subject to planning approval. These parks are all Suitable Alternative Natural Green-spaces (SANGs) and are being developed to compensate for new homes that are being built within five miles of the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area (SPA). Thames Basin Heaths are the remnants of the sandy lowland heath that was common in this area but has been fragmented by development. Sandy lowland heath is the preferred habitat of the nightjar and a number of other special creatures.
Development and especially new houses bring people and dogs and many of the special species that make sandy heaths their home don't get on well with dogs, even well-behaved ones. A well-built SANG will deliver benefits to more than dog-owners. For example, the Blue Mountain park will have a path suitable for runners, a community orchard, five ponds, and several areas of wildflower meadows.
Although Binfield is blighted by developments, one upside is the opening up of private land to all of us, so go and make the most of it!
You should also go and have a look at some of the sandy heath to the south, keeping your dog on a lead if the signs ask you to do that.I also recommend joining a summer evening nightjar walk to see and hear these incredible crepuscular birds.Local walks are offered by Bracknell Forest Council, BBOWT and the RSPB – more details can be found on their websites.
To find out more about Thames Basin Heaths or local SANGs visit https://www.tbhpartnership.org.uk/