Nightjars and skeletons!

On Thursday evening, I was contacted by a friend, Ben, who is a qualified ringer, as he was taking a trip up to Cannock Chase to see if he could net some nightjars. I joined him, as the evening was looking quite good and it was a break from a lot of PC based work during the day!

We got to the Chase just as it was getting dark and Ben set up the mist nets across a clearing where we had been informed there were some nightjar. I had taken the Bushnell Equinox Night vision…. being ambitious, I thought I might be able to film some nightjar… especially if we did capture on win the mist nets.

As I set up, I discovered a deer carcass in the wooded area. Spread out somewhat, this carcass had been there long enough to have rotten down to a bare skeleton. I was delighted to find the skull and both lower jaw bones. The antlers were a single, small prong, so a young buck of some art. There was some pale fur around which suggested Fallow; the commonest species on the Chase.

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Ben and I settled down to wait for the Nightjar. it was not long before the sound of a Tawny broke the silence and then two youngsters started calling. They sounded very close but, despite searching, I could not spy them.

The evening progressed and, although we saw riding woodcock, listened to tawny and song thrush and saw and heard some nightjar, none of the woodcock came anywhere near the net. Still a worthwhile night out, as lovely to see and hear them and I was going home with a lovely prize in my bag!

On leaving for work the following morning, I wondered what the weird smell was in my hall…. it was only later as I lent to go out the front door, that I remembered the skull! It smelt somewhat dodgy after a night in my rucksack!

Last night, I took some pictures and posted them on Twitter to see what species others thought it was. After a very interesting and lengthy discussion between myself, Ben Garrod (from BBC Secret Life of Bones) and Jake McGowan-Lowe (of Jake’s Bones fame), it was decided it was a young Fallow buck. This was later confirmed by Jim, the ranger at Cannock Chase. These youngsters are known as ‘Prickets’.

I have soaked the skull in biological washing powder and then in plain water. Tomorrow, it will be left out in the sun to dry and then it will join the other natural artefacts I have collected to show kids (and adults). It had a near miss when Bryn, my collie, discovered it in its bath of water and extracted it for a good chew! Luckily, I rescued it just in time.