Albert Spinks the Gamekeeper, Joseph Whitaker and the Egyptian Nightjar

Our story begins in 1883, June 23rd to be precise. On that day, Albert Spinks whilst shooting at a rabbit, disturbed a bird and it flew away from the side of the pathway where he stood. He fired his second barrel and brought it down. He noticed its curious colour, came to the conclusion it was a young bird, took it home and threw it into the ashpit.

Joseph Whitaker, naturalist and sportsman of Rainworth Lodge, called on Albert  Spinks and the incident of the bird came into the conversation, whereupon Albert fetched the bird to show him.   To quote Joseph Whitaker “I thought it was a variety and sent it to my stuffer who contrived to make a fair specimen of it” It turns out to be an Egyptian Nightjar and only the second occurrence of this bird in Europe, and the first known sighting in Britain at that time. This stuffed Egyptian Nightjar is stored in the Mansfield Museum.

A memorial stone was erected on the spot where the bird was shot, but sadly in 1972 the memorial was very badly damaged by vandals. Wilf Wild wrote in his book that he searched through the bracken and found most of the pieces. Will Richards wrote that in 1985 whilst walking with Roland Berridge who worked in Thieves Wood as a forester, that they found a further piece. Will Richards also wrote that all these pieces are in safe keeping. It was felt that if the memorial was rebuilt it would meet a similar fate. In 1989 a more vandal proof stone was erected close to the original spot.

Joseph Whitaker died at the age of 82 years on May 27th 1932, he was cremated and his remains deposited in the grounds of Rainworth Lodge.