Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Nighthawk Flight Over Essex
September 12, 2020
By Steve Grinley
A couple of weeks ago I challenged you to watch the evening skies for migrating nighthawks. I don’t think that we have ever seen one over our house in Essex, partly because we are surrounded by trees and don’t have much sky to look at. However, our friend Phil Brown, who lives about a half mile down the street from us, does see them frequently during spring and fall migration.
Last Saturday, we received a text from Phil saying he had more than a dozen already flying over his house and that we should check from our yard – except we were not home. We were on our way home from Danvers, and since we were going to pass by Phil’s along the way, we stopped there for a better “viewing sky.”
Phil shares with us the story of the phenomenal flight of nighthawks over his house that evening:
“I’ve had Nighthawks migrating over the house almost every year for the past 20, sometimes I catch them in the spring when they’re calling as they fly over, and sometimes in the fall as they head over silently.
“Last night at 5:45pm I had a single Nighthawk heading east, stopping with a group of Tree Swallows to feed on whatever tasty bugs they’d come across and as I watched them a 1/2 mile or so distant a couple more flew over, then a few more, all heading north to south and coming from all corners of the sky I can see from the backyard.
“After 14 had gone past I texted Steve & Margo thinking they may want to take a peek at they’re house but they were on the road and decided to stop by, but before they arrived 77 had flown over all north to south.
“I reached 84 before 4 flew north and made it just over 100 when a good number of them started coming from the east and south. I’m guessing they reached the coast and either flew around Cape Ann which would bring them in from the east or just turned around which brought several from the south.
“Total flyovers came to 125 with just over 100 Nighthawks counted as singles starting at 5:45 and ending at 7pm. The largest group was a dozen with many 5’s, 6’s, 7’s & 8’s.
“My highest number at the house on any given day was 12 prior to last night and 8 another year with singles and doubles being the norm through the years.
“I don’t suspect that will happen again anytime to soon but it sure was fun while it lasted!”