Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Last night I took a late evening stroll up to the 'viewpoint' to ease my aching back. A light drizzle was falling at the tail end of a cold, rainy day. I left my hood off so that I could hear the sounds of the on-coming dusk. My ears soon picked up the 'peent' of a nighthawk. They seem to be more common this year and always remind me of arid evenings in New Mexico. As I neared the top of the knoll I froze beneath a tree branch. I had just noticed a pair of nighthawks flying low and swooping around each other in a frenzied aerobatic dance. I had never seen this behavior before. They are more commonly seen performing their display high in the sky where they dive toward the ground then air-brake with that distinctive 'bbrrrvvvvvt' sound. This behavior kept up for several minutes as the darkness deepened. Their tight flight formation reminded me of jet plane chases through canyons seen in the movies. They actually flew past me at knee height, close enough to hear their wings cutting through the humid air. As their 'peent' calls waned I began to notice a faint different pitched noise to the north and slightly downhill. It was then that I realized I might be close to some young ones on the ground and maybe their display was a warning to me. Or maybe a diversion rather like a Killdeer's broken wing behavior to lure predators away from the 'nest' on the ground. Nighthawks lay their eggs on bare ground and do not build a nest. With this distinct possibility in mind I turned and walked home.