As I mentioned on May 2 and
nightjars are the kings of monotony. They are also pretty
common and pretty easy to record, especially if you camp in their midst. As a result, I have plenty of good recordings of Chuck-will's-widow, both
Eastern and Mexican Whip-poor-wills, and even Common Pauraques, with a Buff-collared Nightjar thrown in for good measure. But, despite
living among the Common Poorwills for many years I have never managed to be at the right place at the right time. In fact, ever since 1978,
when a poorwill landed on a dead peach tree five feet above my head and sang for several minutes, I have been wanting to hear the little grace note at the end of the song
that I heard that night. Well, here it is, under the most unusual of circumstances.
I was camping with the Flocks and Rocks Trek in the group campground at Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park last year. I think the name of the place is
suggestive of air temperature, but it also may refer to the deep red sandstone that abounds. It is in fact a beautiful and wild place. We
saw a large herd of desert bighorns on a hillside, and two rams stopped traffic to saunter across the two-lane blacktop. On this particular
morning I was out early recording dawnsong. The Say's Phoebes were talking over each other, and a Black-throated Sparrow was talking
over them. Then I heard an unusual sound emanating from the slope leading up to a high ridge that marked the edge of the valley.
After a few quizzical seconds, I realized it was a poorwill, far away. Usually they and their kind have the stage to themselves, but this
nightbird was doing an encore that extended into daytime. I trained the parabola on it, and the resulting recording was far better
than I expected. It must have been the dry desert air. But, not until I reviewed it for the first time last night did I realize that I had recorded
the faint notes that end each song. Here it is. It is below 2 kHz and comes every second and a half.