Friday, May 27, 2011

Whip-poor-will and chuck will's widow (the Night Jar) survey for 2011

We fielded two teams again this year (see June 2010, also) for the annual Night Jar survey. The plan was to drive to ten spots, one mile apart, listen for 6 minutes and record if we heard whip-poor-wills or chuck will's widows. If we got lucky, we would hear several of each, or if the conditions were less than good, it would be a nice, early-summer's drive through the country.

We got sort of lucky. Mid-lucky, perhaps: two whips, seven chucks. We had more chucks than expected and fewer whips than desired. The "night jar" comes from these bird's rather odd-looking open-mouth display, wide, as if a jar, at night. They also perch lengthwise to the limb rather than across the limb.

Perhaps, the conditions were not the best. The moon, just past full, was going to be late. We had partly cloudy skies to beautifully clear overhead at times. One nice-sky spot was along Gap Creek Road where the road is a canyon in the trees. The sky was clear and starry and beautiful.

At a few other sites, the peepers and tree frogs were in full throat which were plenty noisy and we stirred up countless dogs which made for more noise. But for Friday, I think we were snake bit by too much road traffic. Whips and chucks are sometimes hard enough to hear on a quiet night let alone when you have five or six cars and few motorcycles drive by in six minutes. The only calls we could hear were close in. If you've ever camped near whip-poor-wills you know they call loud and endlessly. Obnoxious is a good description. To stop at a church and listen across a field against so much background noise is a different matter.

Roughly, our area was from below Milligan College, Tenn., in a loop to the south ending up near Vest Greenhouse at the Laurels Picnic area, five miles south of Johnson City. It was nice country back in there. Although there were also lots of new homes and lots of dogs and lots of night lights, that just proves, of course, the county was getting a little more packed every day, the national housing bust not withstanding.


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