Saturday, April 25, 2009

The wrong will

Last night, Dave and Nio were sitting out on the deck having a beer. Nio doesn’t actually get a beer, though I’m sure he would enjoy one. He just hangs out and chews his Nylabone while Dave does the drinking. They do this every evening when Dave’s in town. It’s their special man time. I was puttering around in the kitchen. Dave hollered at me to come outside—“Come listen to this bird.”

I was a little annoyed because I assumed he was summoning me to listen to the vocal antics of a mockingbird. We have scads of them and they never shut up this time of year. Dave has a tendency to find novelty where I don’t. But when I got out there I discovered that it really was something a bit novel. A bird somewhere along the tree line behind the house was repeating a sharp, loud call.

“Is that a whip-poor-will?’ Dave asked. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard one.”

Whip-poor-wills aren’t rare, but we’ve never had them in our yard. They’re ground-nesters, so they tend to prefer more heavily wooded areas where there aren’t a lot of people (or roaming cats.) I agreed with Dave that we were listening to a whip-poor-will, but something about its call was not quite right. I have a pretty poor ear for birdcalls, and I thought maybe this whip-poor-will was just a little eccentric.

Just to be sure, I hunted up an online whip-poor-will call. Yep, it was slightly different from our bird. I kept hunting, and discovered that we were actually being serenaded by a chuck-will’s-widow. They’re as common as whip-poor-wills, and I’m sure I’ve heard them many times without knowing it. It would be nice if this one would stick around so I can get a good look at him. He’s welcome to eat all the insects he wants while he’s here, though I hope he leaves our bats alone.

Watercolor of a male chuck-will's-widow (Caprimulgus carolinensis) by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, from Bird Lore, 1926. Image from Wikimedia Commons


Bozo said...

It's beautiful. I've never seen one.

BitterGrace said...

I am crossing my fingers that we'll have a nest here--though I probably shouldn't hope for that, since my neighbor is feeding an army of feral cats. I'll keep you posted if there are any sightings.

jmcleod76 said...

Do you have bat houses? An apartment I used to live in had a bat problem - 1000s of them nesting in our crawlspace. I like bats in general, but it was a real problem - batshit raining down on us from the ceiling, our cats killing 3 or 4 intruders into the house every week (each one complete with a trip to the state rabies lab, frozen bat in tubberware in tow), the deaferning screech of hundreds of bat moms giving birth, helpless pups falling onto our stairs and getting stranded. Not fun. The landlord acted like we were totally irrational for being unhappy about the situation ... He finally had a bat expert come in and seal off the building after the pups grew up and the moms all moved out for the winter. Don't know if they ever came back. We bought our house that spring.

BitterGrace said...

Wow, I love bats, but that sounds like a nightmare. Bat invasions seem to be a lot less common down here. I remember bats being a problem at Mt Holyoke pretty often, but you rarely hear of them wreaking havoc in these parts. Every once in a while I find one on my porch. Dave adores the bats. He goes out at dusk to commune with them.