Wednesday, July 3, 2013

More on Eastern Whip-poor-wills (including a story of a nest find)

Eastern Whip-poor-will nest, Prescott Peninsula, June 2013 (photo courtesy of Chris Buelow)
As mentioned in a few previous posts I conducted two Eastern Whip Poor Will surveys this year with one covering the Prescott Peninsula and one the area of South Quabbin.  This was the second year of the Prescott survey and the first year of the new South Quabbin route.  I completed these routes in mid to late May and found several birds on each survey.  Chris Buelow from the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program recently sent an e-mail to all participants of the various surveys and as part of the end of season wrap up included a photo of a nest he found approximately 1000 feet east of one of my survey points on the south end of the Prescott Peninsula.  This spot has had whip poor wills throughout the time of the Breeding Bird Atlas and was one of the factors in establishing the Prescott survey route.  It is really neat to actually see a photo of a nest of one of the birds I probably heard near the spot.  The nest is really no more than just bare ground with the eggs laid on it.  Below is the story of the find from an e-mail I received from Chris:

"I was actually exploring the steep southern ridge of Mt Ram and flushed the bird while walking along the narrow ridgeline. The bird fluttered up only about 6' high, then flew off to the side only about 15', but out of sight behind a pine sapling. The eggs were right there, on the bare oak leaves, equidistant between a triangle 3 white pine saplings, each about 20' from the other. While walking I was actually thinking about your route out here and was wondering if this open oak forest, really one of the few remaining good examples of this habitat out here that hasn't been invaded by white pine, was the source of your birds. It was pretty wild."
If anyone has any other locations in the area where they have heard whip poor wills please consider contacting Chris (I can provide his contact info if anyone needs it) to potentially set up another survey route so we can keep taps on this declining species and see where they are still hanging on so we can hopefully provide data to those making decisions on how to manage certain areas to keep the birds around. 

More information regarding this species can be found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website:

Some of the ‘cool facts’ of the Eastern Whip-poor-will posted on the above mentioned website include the following:

Cool Facts

  • Eastern Whip-poor-wills lay their eggs in phase with the lunar cycle, so that they hatch on average 10 days before a full moon. When the moon is near full, the adults can forage the entire night and capture large quantities of insects to feed to their nestlings.
  • Eastern Whip-poor-will chicks move around as nestlings, making it difficult for predators to rob the nest. The parent may help by shoving a nestling aside with its foot, sometimes sending the young bird tumbling head over heels.
  • The male Eastern Whip-poor-will often will investigate intruders near the nest by hovering in place with his body nearly vertical and his tail spread wide, showing off the broad white tips of the tail feathers.
  • Eastern and Mexican Whip-poor-wills used to be considered one species, simply called the Whip-poor-will. But in 2011 they were split into two species based on differences in mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Eastern Whip-poor-wills give faster, higher-pitched whip-poor-will calls and have more colorful eggs than their western counterparts.
  • The Eastern Whip-poor-will may locate insects by seeing the bugs’ silhouettes against the sky. Its eyes have a reflective structure behind the retina that is probably an adaptation to low light conditions.
  • The oldest recorded Eastern Whip-poor-will was 4 years old.

Eastern Whip-poor-will, Covey WMA, May 18, 2013 

 I have included a photo of an Eastern Whip-poor-will I took earlier this year at Covey WMA.  I would like to thank Chris again for allowing me to use his photograph of the nest as well as his story of the discovery of the nest.

Even more information on Eastern Whip-poor-wills in the state can be found at the link from the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program at:

Wild Turkeys, Quabbin Park, MA, July 1, 2013

Wild Turkey, Quabbin Park, MA, July 1, 2013
The last several days have featured more of the same as far as weather is concerned.  The warm, humid tropical conditions have continued.  As an indication of how warm it has been the low temperature last night dipped down to 74!  The next several days will feature even warmer temperatures (90 or above) but with a slightly reduced chances of thunderstorms.  I have gotten out briefly a few times the last few days but the mosquitoes have gotten really bad in a few spots.  I have included a few shots I took with my iPhone through my binoculars of a family of Wild Turkeys at Quabbin Park on July 1.

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