A Song for June 03

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Click the sonogram to hear and see the sound.

As I mentioned on May 2 and May 15, 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.

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