Do you have a moment or signal each year when you know fall migration has begun? Yesterday evening, I had mine: the Nighthawks were out.
Common Nighthawks are a mainly nocturnal bird that, for most of the summer, we can only locate by call. However, for a very brief window in late August, the Nighthawks come out into the daylight to migrate south…and, most years, they come out in numbers.
In less than an hour, I counted well over 100 Nighthawks heading south over Highway 11 between the communities of Pinewood and Barwick. The birds almost always appear in a loose, swirling ball, hawking insects as they go. Sometimes, the Nighthawks are only visible for a few seconds before they vanish south.
I very rarely get to log an observation in iNat for the Nighthawks. They’re not difficult to identify: they have long, tapered wings marked with a broad silver stripe. Even from a great distance, the silver stripe is easily seen. The challenge is, the birds are moving so quickly - and in late day sun - that they’re nearly un-photograph-able. Usually, I get something that looks like this:
So, the Nighthawks are mostly an experience, not a record.
This year’s Nighthawk moment was accompanied by choking clouds of forest fire smoke: the birds were obviously taking advantage of a stiff northwest wind to start their migration. Unfortunately, that brought back to Rainy River the smoke from the fires that are still burning along the Manitoba border.
The moment also featured a sudden flight of large Darner-type (Aeshna species) dragonflies. I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the Forum that odonata numbers have been very low here this year…so I was really surprised to see hundreds of Darners appear literally out of the blue with the Nighthawks. Presumably, the Nighthawks were taking advantage of the sudden bounty to fuel their flight.
Feel free to share your fall migration moment!