Sunday, June 26, 2011
We are blessed here in southeast Ohio with the little moth-eating, night-flying caprimulgids known as whip-poor-wills. Blessed, or cursed. The man from whom we bought the house called them "fiends from Hell." He hated them. He also hated the yellow-breasted chats who flew over the yard giving raspberries, clacks and grunts because they made such "rude noises."
Well. One man's hell is another's heaven. I count chats and whip-poor-wills among the myriad blessings of living here. Some nights we can hear upwards of five at a time from our deck.
I've learned to sleep through the whips' nightly serenade, although I will confess that three in the yard at one time, as happened one night in early June at 2 AM, is a bit cacaphonic. All you can do when they gang up like that is lie there and laugh.
Every once in awhile we'll see whips sitting in the driveway, or on the road that leads to our house. All you usually see of a whip in the headlights is its eye, shining like a big orange garnet right down at gravel level. Those of us who've done lots of tropical birding know to look for caprimulgids sitting on forest roads, happy to have a clearing in which to hawk for moths. Well, they do that in Ohio, too. I was lucky enough to have my telephoto lens with me the last time I spotted the pretty orange headlight of a whip-poor-will. I was also lucky to have Bill in the car right behind me. His headlights, shining on the little whip, were all I needed, as I didn't want to startle the bird with flash.
So the top picture is my best photo to date of a whip-poor-will. It's a crappy photo, but hey. You try getting a decent photo of a whip-poor-will. Stakes are a bit different than trying to photograph a robin.