Posts Tagged ‘common nighthawk’

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird. It would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs … We must be hatched or go bad.” C.S. Lewis

Travels With Maggie

Common nighthawk -- Photo by Joanne Kamo, whose many other wonderful bird photographs can be seen at http://www.pbase.com/jitams

I try to time my last walk with Maggie so that it ends just as the sun goes down so as to catch the sunset. The days, in my opinion, are best when they begin with a sunrise and end with a sunset.

But late evening is also the time of day here at Lake Walcott State Park in Southern Idaho when the nighthawks come out to feed. For a kettle of common nighthawks that regularly takes place over the campground where my RV, Gypsy Lee, is parked.

They dine in the air on the many insects that also call this small park home. It’s always a treat to see them. Not only are they awesome to watch, my brain knows that every bug they eat is one that won’t bite me.

A fellow lone-female traveler, not a birder, who stopped by recently to visit me, asked what the birds flying overhead were as we shared our evening walk.

Common nighthawks, I told her. Then pointed out how to easily recognize them when in flight.


Common nighthawk -- Photo by Joanne Kamo

About the size of a robin, these birds have long, forked and pointed wings with a distinctive broad white bar about a third of the way up from the tip of the wing. The white bars are very prominent.

“Do they always fly that low,” she asked, as a couple of the birds zoomed in front of us at about head level.

“Nope. Usually they fly much higher,” I replied. “I guess the bugs are flying low tonight.”

The first time I saw these birds, whose large heads seem to lack a neck, they were flying even lower, however. I was fairly new to birding at the time, having only become addicted to the passion in 1999. The life sighting occurred while I was walking a trail at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, where they were flying low over a small pond.

After watching them for a while, I realized they were skimming bugs off the water. Looking in my field guide to identify them, I discovered they were a member of the goatsucker family, whose name tickled my funny bone. According to folklore, these birds were thought to suck a goat’s milk at night.

The image this false legend flashed through my brain gave me an even more robust chuckle.

There are so many reasons why I’m passionate about birds, and such oddities as this, which I swear each species seems to enjoy, is just one.

Lake Walcott, meanwhile, has treated me to more common nighthawks in one night than all the others I’ve seen elsewhere. If you visit, I hope you take advantage of the nightly summer show.

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 “In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.” — Charles A. Lindbergh.

My morning visitor -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Midges and flies, but thankfully not blood-sucking mosquitoes, were an almost a constant human nuisance during my stay at Lake Walcott. A few even found their way into my RV, which was sad. While I’m very respectful of wildlife, even bugs and snakes, once a wild critter intrudes into my home, it usually ends up being a dead critter. A cute little field mouse discovered this when it nibbled on the tasty peanut butter I had spread on a mouse trap after I had spotted it scooting across my narrow floor.

 But bugs and mice are part of the circle of life. And if you’re a birder you have to appreciate them. These fast-breeding creatures make it possible for the existence of the slower breeding feathered flyers that amaze me. I saw this almost daily at Lake Walcott as the midges provided a tasty meal for a dawn and dusk parade of circling nighthawks flying overhead.

And while they didn’t make a personal appearance, I’m sure the great horned owls that hoo-hoo-hooed me awake each morning dined elegantly on some of the field mice I occasionally saw scampering through the sagebrush. During my

Common nighthawk -- Photo by Mark B. Bartosik

 earlier spring visit to the park, I had been honored to spot a great horned owl nest that had a couple of tiny heads poking above its jumbled wall of sticks. The park is full of huge, magnificent cottonwood trees that I knew from past sightings were favorite nesting spots of these silent flying night hunters.

 One morning I woke to find a four-legged critter poking around my campsite, one that has included human handouts as part of its menu plan. It was a raccoon, whose photo I took from my dining room table while drinking my morning coffee. While he didn’t get any tasty tidbits from me, I saw evidence of his dining habits in the wake of trashed tin garbage cans most mornings.

 When Maggie finally noticed our visitor, she barked excitedly. The raccoon appeared familiar with such nonsense. It merely stared for a moment at our RV, then slowly sauntered back into the brush behind the campground. I hoped he found something tasty out of the trash can I later picked up on my morning walk through of the campground.

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