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Monday, April 18, 2011

Nighthawk Mail

Rhodes Hall - Acadia Univeristy
La Bella Luna taken from my deck at Black River Lake, April 17th at 8:53 PM

When I was a kid about ten years (1966) old, there were three nesting pairs of nighthawks in the town of Wolfville.  One pair nested on the old post office (shown above), another on the telephone office building and one on Rhodes Hall on the university campus.  All of these buildings had flat, tarred, gravel/sand rooves and each female laid two eggs on this spartan substrate without building any nest.  In the summer evening twilight you could hear and see the adults as they swooped above the giant elms over the town like boomerangs, foraging for insects to feed their young.  

I first met Robie Tufts when I was eight and we became good friends right away.  He was then in his late seventies.  When he learned from me where the nests were located, he arranged with the superintendent of each building for us to get up on the roof tops near the end of June to inspect them.  By the early 1970's, with light pollution and over use of insecticides, the food base dwindled and this common pattern of human behaviour, repeated across North America, resulted in a steady decline of nighthawks.  Although their distribution in over wintering areas of South America is not fully understood, the more recent significant population decline that has occurred over the past two decades, is thought implicated with habitat loss on that continent. 

Today 'urban' nighthawks in valley towns are gone.  A few still live in the back country where I live now, nesting on glacial erratics and abandoned wood roads.    Mercy, Mercy me....

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