Sunday, May 27, 2007
An Eve to Remember.
On Friday afternoon, Brett, First Landing Park Ranger, and I made plans and preparations to attempt to mist net a remarkable summer breeder in the Park, the Chuck-Will's-Widow, a nightjar. Check out, for example: http://www.sdgfp.info/Wildlife/Diversity/Digest%20Articles/Chuck_wills_widow.htm
We painted aluuminium net poles, cleared net lanes and gathered other needed gear, including electronic calling equipment.
The group of volunteers included newcomers Terry, Aaron and Rich along with the always dependable Renee, Sheila and John. Before sunset, we set up the mist nets (which were in two groups, one of three, the second of four) in formations around the audio equipment and placed a white bird bag in a pocket of each mist net (an English trapping practice said to attract nightjars). We then retired in the gathering darkness to watch Common Nighthawks in the clear skies above the Park.
Soon, we heard Chuck's calling in addition to our electronic versions. Our first of four net runs was at 2100 hours. Brett's group found the two Chuck's pictured above on that run in the same net. Each was in close proximity to the white bag! No other Chuck's were netted.
The species is remarkable. The plummage is soft to the touch; owl-like. The gape (bill opening) is an avian version of a baleen whale-enormous (able and willing to eat a Common Yellowthroat whole in Brett's experience). The feet and legs are small boned and semi-palmated. And the middle toe of each adult has a remarkable comb. The birds we captured were banded, measured and released. They were each adult males, as demonstrated by the white outer tail feathers, which number only ten in nightjars. Each bird weighed about 4 ounces.