Friday, July 13, 2007

Worth waking up early!

Well, today is a special day indeed. You might be asking yourself why I would think that Friday the 13th. is a special day. Personally, I don't see the day as all that unlucky. In fact I asked my wife to marry me on a Friday the 13th......and she said yes!

But today is lucky in different way. How? Well today, we bring you this most excellent web site you are currently viewing. That's why the day is lucky for you.

For me the day is lucky because I finally was able to get some of the best views you could ever hope to have of a Chuck-wills-widow. After about three weeks or so of being quiet the Chuck-wills-widow which resides somewhere in the vicinity of our back yard decided to start calling again last night. The problem was that he would call once and then be quiet for 15 min. or more. Try as I may with the failing light in the evening I was never able to locate the bird. It doesn't matter whether you have the most expensive or least expensive binoculars in the world, there is a finite amount of light available for gathering at any given point in the day. The expensive binoculars just help the world stay brighter a little longer.

What made getting up early this morning worth it was the fact that in the morning the light is working with you. Ever so slightly the daylight is getting brighter and brighter. So when I heard the Chuck-wills-widow call around 5:15 a.m. I sat out on the back porch and tried to put the biting mosquitoes in the background. After a few frustrating minutes I saw a brownish flash in the cleared lot next to our house and then a whitish flash of the tail as the bird came to rest atop a broken off tree next door. This was the view I had been waiting years for. I've actually seen Chuck's once, briefly in a flash of light, in a property behind my parent's house in Florida; this was of course before the land was cleared for a housing development. But now, this bird is calling in my own backyard.

For the next half hour we enjoyed stellar views of the Chuck-wills-widow as it flew around in and out of the trees in the next door property and even with in about 20 yards of us in our own parcel. These birds in particular have always fascinated me being that we seem to know so little about their life histories. This is one of the reasons we named our World Series of Birding team the Steiner/CMBO Northwood Nightjars. After all, how often do you get to study a Chuck-wills-widow in flight?

Another interesting observation we made was the groaning, croaking noise the bird was making. More often then not is signaled it's return to hunting by emitting this croaking noise I could only liken it to hearing a very distant Black-crowned night-heron. It also had a slightly higher pitched similar sounding croaking call it made. Having spent a very limited time with this species these noises were new to me. My question, do these noises pertain to the mate? In other words, was this bird "talking" to a female or even chicks (probably not chicks since all information I could find indicates that the female of this species does all of the parenting work)? At one point it landed on the ground and moved around, I couldn't see it but could hear it moving. How exciting would it be to actually have this species nest with in sight of our house. Chances are it was just moving about in search of more to eat.

All in all one of the most exciting birding experiences I have ever had.

Since I was up and about early I figured that I'd take a quick spin around Higbee's Beach WMA before I headed in to the Northwood Center. I can't say that had anything as exciting as my early morning experience but the local breeders were in evidence this morning. A partial list of species observed from my quick jaunt is below. I also have heard word that the breeding Prtothonotary warblers at the Beanery (Rea's Farm) were singing this morning. As well, a Northern bobwhite was heard in the vicinity of the Beanery.

Not in any particular order;

Carolina chickadee

Tufted titmouse

White-eye vireo

Indigo bunting

Brown thrasher

Orchard oriole

Great-crested flycatcher

Eastern kingbird

Barn swallow

Carolina wren- quite boisterous this morning as usual

Yellow-breasted chat

Common yellow-throat

Field sparrow- also quite boisterous this morning

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