A wildlife photographer has captured extremely rare pictures of Britain’s most reclusive bird, hatching.
The stunning images show an adult nightjar incubating two eggs – and capture the whole hatching process.
A rare photograph of the nightjar eggs (SWNS)
An adult nightjar incubates two eggs (SWNS)
The newborn chicks are barely recognisable, with nothing more than a beak and fur on show - a far cry from the adult’s frog-like features.
A stunningly beautiful fluffy newborn baby nightjar (SWNS)
Nightjars are a rare sight in the UK and are widely considered to be the most reclusive bird in Britain.
They are on the critically endangered list and, despite travelling from Africa to nest, they are an almost mythical breed and well doused in folklore.
The images were captured by photographer and police officer, Joshua Marshall, from Torbay in Devon.
Joshua - a member of the British Trust for Ornithology - found the nest last month near Hennock reservoir on Dartmoor, and monitored the progress of the mother over the following weeks.
He witnessed the first of the eggs hatch, and was ready with his camera to capture the chick in the nest.
He said: “I’m an ornithologist, so I was out looking for nests. It was good habitat for nightjars, so I thought I would find one.
“They’re not easy birds to see, they migrate from Africa. They arrive in May and stay until September time.
"They have two broods a year, and this would be the first clutch of eggs that I found.
"I found the nest with two eggs, so I knew the female was sitting. It was great to go back and see the chick sitting there.
He set up a small hide under a camouflage net, and photographed the mother on the nest - about four metres from the bird.
Because the birds rely on camouflage, they aren’t normally seen. The nightjar is native to Africa, but travels to the UK in summer to nest.
The first sign of a nearby nightjar is the distinctive ‘churring’ sound, issued by males during mating season, and they are easily identified by their frog-like face.
They are registered as critical endangered by the RSPB, with less than 5,000 breeding pairs in the UK
"I have been back several times since and now both the chicks have hatched, they are both doing well”, added Joshua.
Because they blend in so well, the reclusive endangered birds are not usually seen (SWNS)