Tag Archives: Nightjar

Whippoorwill or Whippoorwon’t?

Over 20 years ago, my husband I moved to his family home in rural Essex County, VA.  The old house was sorely lacking most modern conveniences, one of those being air conditioning. With windows wide open on a moonlit night, the romantic call of a Whippoorwill began from the front yard.

How lovely. Dulcet country sounds rather than the clash and clamor of Richmond’s street noise. By the second night, we were out in the yard slamming pan lids together trying to shut the darn thing up.

Over the years, we got that AC and the nighttime crooning of the Whippoorwill was no longer a problem. To be honest, I assumed all these years that he was out there singing to the full moon. It wasn’t until on a beautiful spring night last week that I found out differently. We were sitting out in the yard enjoying the full moon at about 10 o’clock when I heard a loud, clear bird song. Similar to a Whippoorwill, but different. And I had never heard it before. So I pulled out the iPhone and recorded him singing and sent it to a friend to help with identification.


She responded with the news that it is a Chuck-Will’s-Widow, a member of the Nightjar bird group, which includes Whippoorwills, Woodcocks and Nighthawks, just to name a few. She also sent me a link to the The Center for Conservation Biology Nightjar Survey Network. The Center is a research group within The College of William and Mary and the Virginia Commonwealth University that conducts primary research with applications to the management of land and bird species of conservation concern.

Turns out that there is a general feeling that folks aren’t hearing these night singers like they used to. So they started this survey for volunteers to gather data, or the lack thereof. I’ve joined and my survey area is going to be my Essex County farm and the vast Menokin landscape, where I will be camped on the next full moon to hopefully hear more singing.

Join me here for my vigil, or sign up and create your own survey area.