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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nighthawks, Yes!

Common Nighthawk, migrating

Don, Lois and Leon counting nighthawks, Phoebe is resting

Our wishes came true and last night was a great Common Nighthawk migration event. We saw 365 nighthawks. We had some good friends, Lois and Leon from MI, visiting and helping with the count.

In an overview, we saw three very different types of movement: high thermalling in a kettle, fast direct southward flights, fast direct northward flights:

3:52 PM 35 Nighthawks thermalling like Broad-winged Hawks, with wings flat and straight out to the sides, tails closed. They circled up and down (no signs of feeding) and finally rose so high they were out of binocular sight and way into the clouds. This is very unusual and we have not seen Nighthawks act like this before.

4:00-4:41 PM 177 Nighthawks in groups of 61, 7, 4, 5, 20, 18, 2, 27 flying fast directly south and fairly low, no signs of feeding.

4:43-6:55 PM 153 Nighthawks in groups of 90, 4, 5, 14, 2, 11, 14, 3, 1, 7, 1, 1 flying fast directly north at mid height, no signs of feeding.

We cooked outside and ate on the deck, so someone could always be watching. What a thrill it was, and addictive, we just wanted to see more and more. What's cool and exciting about this is that Common Nighthawks are in trouble, with populations dropping. So it's rewarding to see numbers of them. We, from our property, Bobolink Farm, in southern NH, had the highest count for this day of any of the towns in southern NH and upper MA that were reporting. Our property fronts on a dammed up part of a river that forms a pond (really a small lake), and nighthawks often follow river valleys during migration, so we're in an excellent location to see them.

It's interesting that we did not see any ant hatches last night. At this time of year ants will hatch and disperse to new areas and often clouds of ants rise high into the air and the nighhawks feed on them. It's another beautiful, clear day today and a chance to see more nighthawks tonight.

Check your area tonight, especially if you're near a river. If you live in southern NH, or the upper two thirds of MA, you can report your numbers to this Nighthawk Migration Survey website here.

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