The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Spring Brings the Whip-poor-will

Image: by D L Ennis, Sunset on the Blue Ridge

Last evening, as the veil of dusk fell over the Blue Ridge Mountains, I stepped out on my back porch to breath in the fresh moonlight giving rise in the southeast. The tall white pines silhouetted against the deep skies of early eve, and the briskness of spring on the air breathed life to memories of nights spent on the Appalachian Trail.

I looked to the night sky and the depths of the heavens drew me in, and on a beam of starlight I was lulled into deep space, where I have so many times in life dreamt of visiting. Immediately, I was lost in an ephemeral state that could have wafted into an enduring wanderlust for the unknown if not for the sudden, and unexpected, call of the whip-poor-will.

“I was not only nearer to some of those which commonly frequent the garden and the orchard, but to those smaller and more thrilling songsters of the forest which never, or rarely, serenade a villager -- the wood thrush, the veery, the scarlet tanager, the field sparrow, the whip-poor-will, and many others.” -Walden & on the Duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

It has been since autumn last that I heard the call of this familiar nightjar. The woods where I live are inhabited by a great number of the, Tapacamino cuerporruín-norteño, and by the time they leave on their winter’s journey south I have heard enough for awhile and am not saddened by their departure. However, their return in spring evokes wonderful memories of pleasant spring and summer evenings spent with friends beside a campfire, and also persuades the senses that the harsh nights of winter are once again behind us.

This unambiguous night-bird continue their lively song for several hours after sunset, and then remain silent until the first dawn of day, when its notes echo through every vale, and along the declivities of the mountains, until the beams of the rising sun scatter the darkness that overhung the face of nature. Hundreds are often heard at the same time in different parts of the woods, each trying to out-do the others; and when you are told that the notes of this bird may be heard at the distance of several hundred yards, you may form an idea of the pleasure which every lover of nature must feel during the time when this chorus is continued.

Image right: by Kanae Hirabayashi, Whip-poor-will

The whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferous) is seldom seen during the day, unless when accidentally discovered in a state of repose, when, if startled, it rises and flies off, but only to such a distance as it considers necessary, in order to secure it from the farther intrusion of the disturber of its noon-day slumbers. They belong to the night!

So I will bask in the return of the whip-poor-will through spring and summer and by autumn, when their call becomes as annoying as a locus summer, I will once again welcome their departure, until their call beckons me on another fresh spring eve.

Want to know more about birds? Visit our resident expert John on his personal blog; A DC Birding Blog.

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