Last night Angie and I joined some folk from Bird Studies Canada and the High Park Nature Centre for a counting of Common Nighthawks over Hawk Hill as it's called in High Park.
It was a blazing hot and humid day, which made it difficult to go back out into after working and sweating away since 6 o'clock that morning AND being up since 4:30am on top. But being birders, the excitement rose in us about the possibility of seeing this species of bird, that we've only ever seen once (and heard). It was a couple years ago down at Col Sam Smith Park, it was about 9 at night, so when we finally found the bird, it was dark. We heard it do it's calling out as it rose from it's daytime roost and flew across the north end of the park. We were treated to a silhouette of the bird but that was good enough for us knowing how difficult it is to see these birds, adding hearing the call as a bonus.
The Common Nighthawk is listed as a species at risk these days. There are various reasons for it's decline from the lack of gravel roofs in this day/age to predators such as Gulls and Crows enjoying the eggs in their nests.
So, knowing Bird Studies Canada was hosting this event, we figured this was a very good chance for us to once again see this species. Boy, were we right on that one! I stopped counting the Nighthawks at around 2 dozen. I know by the time we left 2 hours later that they were over 50 birds counted. I heard someone say 66. There may have been some counted twice but for us, seeing more than one this time was amazing. We saw males, females and juvi birds. The evening sun, or golden hour as we call it, gave us the chance to see the colors on these birds, the white bands on the wings and white neck bars on the adult males. And watching a few hunt was pretty cool, seeing how acrobatic they can be, chasing insects in the sky. I love insects and taking their pics with the macro lens but I love insect eating birds even more, keeping the bug numbers down (or trying to).
We saw a couple familiar faces at the count so it became a bit of a social gathering for us as well, catching up, swapping birding stories and learning more about each other. Thus perhaps next time out in the field and passing each other by we will say more than just "hello" or give a head nod to one another. These species count events are great! They bring awareness about the birds and bring people together. You can easily make new friends or acquaintances along the way.
I have to admit I am feeling it today from being out for a few hours in the evening and this humidity that's with us once again just doesn't seem to want to break isn't helping. But no matter how I feel right now, it certainly was worth it to go to this Nighthawk count last night. I tried to talk a few into checking it out and seeing a bird seldom seen and for some never knew even existed. Ah well, maybe next time...
Here are a few pics of some of the birds we saw fly over us.
Nice with the glow of the evening sun on them, but hard with the shadows it created.
Occasionally they'd twist and turn in the air as they chased their evening meals.
Way better seeing them in the light hours compared to the night sky.
Un-cropped, un-edited shot here of about the average distance of them over us.
Super cropped here but I was happy to see some of a face.
This event was scheduled from 6pm to 8pm. We left at 8 but most of the people in attendance were still there hanging around keeping count, hoping to see more.
Oh, lastly, at about 7:20pm, a Merlin flew in to a tree just east of us and gave us amazing views of her for probably 5 minutes or so. She sure stole the show! A real treat as this is another bird we rarely see when out and about.
If you'd like to know more about the Common Nighthawk, check this link or this one
And here's a link to some info on the Merlin.
Thanks once again for stopping in and giving my blog a browse.
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