Weybridge: Whip-poor-will Pursuit

By josh • 251 Birds, Nature, Wildlife • 23 Jul 2014

Weybridge (Addison County)
Snake Mountain Road
Town #3

After putting it off for nearly too long, my father and I ventured to Snake Mountain Road in Weybridge on July 22 to seek out the Eastern Whip-poor-wills that have been consistently reported there this summer.  We arrived shortly after 8:00pm and, being a bit early, scouted Snake Mountain Road between Forrest Road at the south end and a large complex of dairy barns to the north.

The habitat here seemed ideal for bug-hawkers with dense successional forest to the west and vast open fields to the east.  We left the car just north of Forrest Road and walked north, beginning shortly after 8:30.  Two young deer grazed far down in the meadow to our east, and the sounds of song sparrows, common yellowthroats, and red-winged blackbirds were gradually replaced by the drone of insects.

A towhee sang just to our south, settling for only the “Drink!” note of his “Drink your TEA!” phrase.  Under other circumstances I’d have been tempted to make a joke about cocktail hour, but it was soon apparent that he was instead inciting legions of mosquitoes to begin their predations.

Soon after we left the car we heard a ‘chucking’ noise that may well have been a nightjar preparing for its part in the twilight chorus, but we didn’t hear another promising sound until nearly 9:00.  Suddenly, one whip-poor-will began calling up the hill to our west, soon to be joined by another, closer, to the northwest, and finally a third very nearby just off the road.  We were fairly sure there was a fourth bird singing at the edge of our hearing to the south.

We should not have waited so long to make this effort.  The dusk scene in this beautiful place in summer is surreal and haunting.  The firefly show is remarkable, with hundreds of insects lighting the east side of the road at the edge of the fields.  Bats cross back and forth from the forest to the meadow.  Though not nearly enough of them to control the mosquitoes, they were a welcome sight in these days of white-nosed syndrome.  The whip-poor-will’s song rings out so vibrantly, so insistently, that it feels out of place in our nighttime temperate forest.


This is a sound that every birder should hear in a place like this on a night like this.  It’s a rare spectacle in Vermont, but this crowd has provided a reliable nightly show for several weeks now.  Go!  Before they stop singing again until next summer.

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