20 June 2011

spotted: nighthawk at the beach

One thing you will soon realize (if you don't know me already) is that I am a crazy birdwatching freak.  I love watching birds and their behaviour and spend immense amounts of time researching them and looking out this huge window at the 40-something species we regularly get at our feeders. 

I recently took a class at the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary, taught by a local ornithologist who took us on weekly field trips and shared his knowledge in a weekly series of evening classes.  I'm quite sure I was the only student under the age of 60.  And I'm also pretty positive that 90% of the class material I already had prior knowledge of.  But, this was perfectly okay!  Anytime I can take a birding class over a finance class, I will take full advantage of!  And being surrounding by people who shared this common fascination was quite alright with me. 

We often take the pup to a local beach which just so happens to be one of the greatest birdwatching locations on Southern Vancouver Island (and 3 minutes from our house).  Since there is a combination of marshes, fields, large trees, and of course, the beach itself, you are pretty much guaranteed to see a wide variety of species.  Yesterday was a particularly exciting day at this beach.  Now, this may not sound all that exciting if you're not interested in birds, but I was only about two feet away from this amazing bird before it flew away.  It is a threatened species and quite rare to see, and although I didn't have a reference book with me, I was pretty sure it was a Nighthawk! 

Photo: Canku Ota

These little guys are solitary and are very quite even when approached, which is why I got so close without even realizing I was standing right next to it.  When it did take off, the first thing I immediately noticed was it's eratic and jerky flight pattern, as well as its long wings with the telltale white stripes.  I've read that they fly like this in an attempt to catch insects, and also as a form of courtship display.

Photo: birdchaser

I was surprised to see this bird, mostly because from its name I suspected that I would only ever have a chance of spotting one at dusk.  Will have to add him to the list!

We also saw a pair of Mourning Doves, an Orange-Crowned Warbler, plenty of female Blackbirds, White-Crowned Sparrows, Anna's Hummingbirds, California Quails, House Finches, and of course a few of the common resident Great Blue Herons.  A successful day in the birding world!
        Photo: Wikipedia


  1. Anonymous07 May, 2012

    We have Nighthawks that nest on the flat stone covered roof of a building that I work in. I work 3rd shift so they are active when I get to work. I have observed them doing the courtships stuff,and they are very defensive of us when we venture outside near where they may be. They fly around in a batlike fashion. The only good look I got was when they were on the ground trying to mate.

  2. Batlike is a very good way of describing them in flight! Very cool birds. Cheers!

  3. I live in the eastern Highlands. Yesterday evening (Sunday) saw about a dozen birds flying 30-40 ft above my house. Never seen this kind of bird before. Thought they maybe a hawk of some kind, they flew around like swallows but they were larger and were a grey colour and had one white stripe or band across their wing from from front to back about halfway down their wing. I think they were nighthawks?

    1. My first thought would be that these were swallows, because I haven't seen nighthawks fly around together as you describe. However, I remember a colleague mentioned seeing the same thing last summer, about 30 of them together at dusk. And if they had the white band across the wings, you can be sure it was a nighthawk!

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