Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nighthawks At Dusk

Wednesday, August 29, 2007
This time of year, late August, when summer's long, slinky dress is getting tattered and torn, and tangled up in Autumn's briers, as dusk falls upon the land, the nighthawks emerge on the northern horizon. Their dark scimitar shapes contrast starkly with the peach wash of the sky. Their diligent, loping wing strokes carry the nighthawks along the ridges, where the last heat of the day may yet hold a dragonfly or two for them to scoop up on the wing.

I love the nighthawk evenings. I've been watching for them every fall these last three decades. My first one was during band camp when I was a 10th grader. As we stood at attention on the marching field, the dew covering everything, the dark birds of passage came among us. Hundreds upon hundreds of them, swooping and cutting the wet evening air. A girl in the trombone section screamed "They're BATS!"

I alone among my bandmates knew the true identity of these winged creatures. Common nighthawks making their way south in the autumn twilight.

Here on our ridgetop farm we've got a great spot for watching the fall march of the nighthawks.
Two nights ago we had several waves, each with about 25 birds. We did our best to photographs them, but the fast-moving birds in low light proved to be quite a challenge.

Overhead, the nighthawk's hawklike shape is readily apparent.

I love how this image shows the bird's wing slashes, on the downstroke.

Passing by the birding tower just about eye level.

Such boomerang wings propel the nighthawk steadily southward.

Following a swoop downward after an insect, a nighthawk powers itself back to migration height.


On August 29, 2007 at 10:42 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Don't know which I like better-the images or the prosetry. Or watching nighthawks with you. I just wish we didn't have to cuss so much when we miss the shot...gotta work on that.

On August 29, 2007 at 11:39 PM Susan Gets Native said...

You know, I saw my first nighthawks in Marietta?
Floating in the hotel swimming pool.

On August 30, 2007 at 7:18 AM KatDoc said...

Cool photos. I saw my Life Nighthawks in my own backyard about 3 years ago. Wasn't sure what I had seen, but those white wings bars helped me make the ID.


On August 30, 2007 at 8:47 AM Anonymous said...

So beautiful the pictures, so poetic the words. A lovely post that clearly shows the need for you to write a book for us. FANTASTIC capture of the waning summer, poignant and dear to all of us.

On August 30, 2007 at 10:18 AM Bill of the Birds said...

I hope you rescued the nighthawks from the pool! ;-)

[credit Deb G. with this catch]

On August 30, 2007 at 11:31 PM Susan Gets Native said...

Okay...I realized that my sentence was extremely awkward. I was floating in the pool, the nighthawk was flying over.