Nighthawks and Pauraques

May 29, 2017 at 8:12 am (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Birds - Texas, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Southwest Birds, Wildlife) (, )

Common nighthawk

Nighthawks are among the birds of my childhood. Their “buick buick” calls at dusk, the quick wingbeats followed by a glide, remind me of warm Southern nights. I remember being outside when it was nearly dark, and a nighthawk flew past my head.

I took off after it in my bare feet. (My feet were perpetually black in summer from running on pavement).

It landed in the fields behind our house, and to my surprise I was able to pick it up. I carried it around awhile, proud of my trophy. I figured it was a juvenile that didn’t know how to fly very well yet.

Of course, I released it after a few minutes.

I’ve seen male nighthawks courting their ladies. The females were on a post or the ground and the male would make a steep dive, pulling up with a roar of wind through his wingtips. It was an amazing sound.

Here’s a female I saw last month in Osage County, Oklahoma just as the sun had set. The male was flying nearby and you can hear the “roar” as he dives near her off-camera.

The common nighthawk is found all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The lesser nighthawk is found in very southern parts of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of a lesser nighthawk.

 

I’ve only seen lesser nighthawks at Big Bend National Park in Texas. They tended to run right into my car headlights after insects, and it broke my heart when I hit one.

Notice how big the eyes are. Nighthawks need to see in the dark. The mouths are huge, too, to scoop flying bugs into their maw.

I saw about two dozen common nighthawks on a trip through farmland between Lawton and Frederick, Oklahoma recently. I’ve never seen so many before, many sitting on fence posts or “bob wahr.” One was even high on a phone line.

I also saw relatives of theirs, the common pauraque, in far South Texas several years ago.  We were told exactly where they were resting amid leaves on the ground at Estero Llano Grande State Park. But it still took a minute to see them even though they were literally out in the open. That’s how good the camouflage was.

Common Pauraque

See what I mean?

Common pauraque

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: Eastern common nighthawks are browner than those from the northern Great Plains, which are silvery gray overall.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

 

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Tiny Jewels with Wings

January 15, 2014 at 11:12 am (Big Bend National Park TX, Birds - Big Bend TX, Birds - Texas, fine art photography, Nature, Photography, Southwest Birds, Wildlife) (, , , , , , )

Calliope Hummingbird male detail

Calliope Hummingbird male detail

Most of these hummers were photographed in 2011 in Arizona, New Mexico, and Big Bend National Park in Texas.  I finally got around to making this collection.

Magnificent Hummingbird male

Magnificent Hummingbird male

Magnificent Hummingbird male

Magnificent Hummingbird male

I did have to do a lot of digital enhancements – my Nikon D80 doesn’t have the resolution that the D600 does, nor does it focus as quickly.  I prefer to darken the background and add a digital blur when necessary to minimize hotspots and noise. Read the rest of this entry »

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Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge – Gators, Birds, Dragonflies, and Such…

November 30, 2012 at 4:00 am (Birds - Texas, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bugs, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Photography, TX, Wildlife) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Vermillion Flycatcher, male

Although my recent trip to Texas was to visit relatives, I could not pass by one of my favorite birding spots without stopping for my bird fix.  Anahuac NWR suffered during Hurricane Rita in 2005, but was really devastated by Hurricane Ike in 2008.  There are fewer trees now, and while Spring seems to have the best variety of birds, November was pretty decent for a windy day.

So without much further ado, here are the results. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Bend’s Birds of Spring

March 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm (Big Bend National Park TX, Birds - Big Bend TX, Birds - Texas) (, , , , , , , , , )

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Red-tailed Hawk on blooming Acacia

In addition to the Common Black Hawks of my last post, there are many other birds returning to Big Bend from their winter getaways, as well as year-round residents exhibiting annoying testosterone-fueled behavior.  

Turkey Vulture eating dead lizard

Turkey Vultures have peppered the sky for a few weeks now, having spent the colder months in Mexico, Central and South America.  These birds have extremely acute olfactory organs for finding rotted meat, and have some nasty (to us) habits such as urinating on their legs to keep cool, and vomiting when alarmed.  They also have trouble getting out of the way of speeding cars, and can easily take out a windshield.  Should a vulture’s guts be ripped open in the process, you might just decide to give the car to a junkyard.  I understand the smell is Putrid Times Ten.  Well, as Jan Allen, one of our volunteer interpreters calls them, they are the Road Kill Cleanup Crew.  They serve an important purpose in the ecosystem, and despite their reputations, are a welcome sight to nature lovers.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Lower Rio Grande Birds

February 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm (Big Bend National Park TX, Birds - Texas) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

 

I have added some new birds to my favorites list, thanks to a trip to the Lower Rio Grande Valley recently.  The above Green Jay is one.  I have a fondness for jays, and this is particularly striking in its tropical coloration.  It’s a Mexican bird that ventures north of the border in South Texas – quite common there actually, but no less of a jewel. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tufted Flycatcher

November 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm (Big Bend National Park, Big Bend National Park TX, Birds - Big Bend TX, Birds - Texas, National Parks, Nature, Photography, TX)

I would not have known about this rare bird at Big Bend National Park if a fellow who worked in Southern Florida hadn’t come through my entrance station on Friday to tell me he drove 30 hours straight to see it after it was posted on the North American Rare Bird Alert.  It was number 731 or something like that for this young man!  Evidently this is only the third US sighting ever of this Mexican bird, as far as I can tell, and the second for Big Bend – the first was in 1991.  Read the rest of this entry »

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