Monday, June 01, 2015

NIghtjar Survey 2015

This year’s survey nights were wet and dry. Our first attempt was rained out but the second night and the back up for the first were good nights to be outdoors.

The backup night for the Fish Springs route was gorgeous. Light breeze, full moon, clear sky, spooky forests. It doesn’t get any better than that for listening for whip-poor-will and chuck-wills-widow, two night birds in the “goat sucker” family. We had five of us, nine good ears (I got one going bad) and a drive up Pond Mountain and Walnut Mountain to enjoy each other’s company and a late night on Witch Mountain!

We counted seven whips and no chucks this night. The survey is the same each year. We have ten spots where we listen for six minutes. The notes include sky, moon, wind, and noise. Sometimes if the creeks are full the noise is enough to prevent hearing any bird other than the most close ones.

The nightjar name comes from it’s wide, round mouth, like a jar, with which they just gobble up insects. Think of  whale on wings. They are a forest bird and kind of shy towards humans. But, just hearing one is sweet. It is a sure sign that summer has begun. 

Maybe the other sure sign summer is here are the “blue ghost” fireflies. We have at least three kinds of fireflies here. The “blue ghosts,” the “synchronized” firefly, and  a common yellow firefly. The blue ghost travel close to the ground and blaze for longer than what most of us see in the common firefly. The females don’t fly. The synchronized do just that. They seem to know when everyone else is glowing so the pick up a pattern and glow together. An “alien landing strip” is how some described it. Up in the hills, on a very dark stretch of road, even n the full moon, the synchronized fireflies are really cool!