Ears to the Night!

Huron National Forest Part 1

It has honestly been a shock to my system getting back from this last weekend trip up north. It feels like the place where I belong, and here I am, back dealing with traffic and school and house hunting. But if you can get to where you can see the ravens again, to where you can go between each lakeside town without so much as a stoplight, then all of that melts away.

We were up at by 4 am and on our way to the stakeout spot in the national forest not too long after. I had already had cameras set up to capture the sunrise, and I was glad to see that they were still there. The cool darkness felt good after the previous day’s swelter. We chose this spot for a unique habitat and its rare inhabitants: the Kirtland’s warbler. There are only a few thousand of these birds in the world, and most of them make Michigan their home for the summer. They require young jack pine forest in order to breed, and that was our destination.

Andromeda sails across the northern skies above Michigan’s Huron National Forest

Before the warblers woke up, we had a whole world of sounds to pay attention to. Once we arrived, our attention was brought to the starry skies over our head. If you didn’t know what you were hearing, you might think it was a strange frog or a nocturnal insect making its way through the dark. But we knew and we heard as the nighthawks gave their incessant peent… peent… peent’s, flying in circles and swoops catching insects from the air.

Emanating from these nocturnal acrobats was a sound wholly unique in our summer nights. After a few peents, the nighthawk takes a hard fall and nosedives straight down, pulling up at the last second to just a few feet above the ground. It is usually to woo a lady, but occasionally to scare off an intruder. The sound is often described as a Boom, and it definitely does not sound like anything that should come from a bird’s wings. Personally, it gives me the impression of a marsh sound, like an angry heron or a croaking bullfrog.

Air rushes through the primary feathers of the nighthawk as it pulls up, causing the “Boom” at the end of the dive display

As the rising sun threatened our darkness, the call of the eastern whippoorwill was heard from among the jack pine. It was brief and intense, calling over and over to us from the dense thicket a few dozen yards away. I am here and you will never see me. But I am here, I am here.

A whippoorwill’s call is a sign of summer from Georgia to Saskatchewan

As soon as it appeared, the sound of the nighthawk’s cousin disappeared into the dawn. The coyotes and porcupines will find a place to lay low until the stars rise again. Soon the moth-eaters would rest and the warblers and jays will wake up to sing a song of their people. The rising sun will illuminate the young pines that call our elusive migrants home.

The crescent moon and Venus are the only remnants of the night sky as the sun looms just under the horizon

Part two is incoming, please take this time to go for a walk while you wait.

1 thought on “Ears to the Night!”

  1. Cindy Madison

    I hope you find a home, in a place , you feel is the right spot for you. Everyone deserves the chance to breathe easily.

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