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