On May 26, 2007 my wife Danika and I did our part to help the Whip-poor-will’s. We participated in a Whip-poor-will survey. Our route started near Freehold in Greene County and proceeded to the south towards Cairo, before turning east towards Catskill.
We arrived at 8:45 pm ready and eager. Our first stop was the starting point. Six minutes spent listening, no birds. We went about a mile further, again six minutes of listening, nothing. We did this 4 more times, before we discovered that our route was nothing more than suburban sprawl, the roads we were on were double yellow lines with little safe areas to even pull off to attempt to listen. Mostly we found very little habitat for Whip-poor-will’s anyway. We were supposed to make 10 stops, but quit after 6.
After a quick gas fill-up and snack run at Stewarts in Coxsackie, Danika and I decided to go and check out the Stanton Road, Whip-poor-will’s in Coeymans. We first passed through New Baltimore in Greene County (near the Coxsackie Reservoir) where Whip-poor-will’s have been historically heard, but found nothing. Arriving at Stanton Road, we heard 1, likely 2 Whip-poor-will’s calling distantly. I didn’t have any tapes on me, so we had to be contented to listen. While we were there a Barred Owl gave out a HOO-HAW call, and a few minutes later another one as well (two birds?). The Whip-poor-will’s remained very far away.
Leaving there, we traveled less than 1/4 of mile away, when suddenly we heard (And felt) and large BOOM on the side of our car. The driver’s side backseat window exploded and our infant daughter who was asleep there, immediately started screaming, covered in glass. I never saw what hit us, but Danika says she briefly got a look at a Deer. Pulling the car over, Danika got out and attempted to get the baby out of the seat. Finding that the door would’nt open, she was able to get her out from the other side. Despite being covered in shattered glass, she barely had a nick on her. We quickly turned around and headed back to Danika’s parents who lived near by and handed the baby off for the night. A closer inspection of the car, showed a tremendous amount of damage, not only was the window smashed, but the entire side of the car was severely dented. We discovered that neither door on that side opens from the outside (they both however, open from the inside). You can still see the hair of the Deer stuck in the Car. Thankfully we have insurance and it will only cost us $500 to get the car fixed (however our rates will go up). The good news is that no one was injured, as for the Deer it survived as well for we found no signs of it after it hit us or the next day when we went back through. It was however rather unsettling.
The next day was Danika’s birthday and we had a picnic at her parents. On our way home, we again stopped for the Whip-poor-will. This time I was armed with a tape and hoped to be able to coax it in to give Danika a look for her birthday. We got there and eventually heard the Whip-poor-will calling away in the distance. I played the tape and it got closer, but did not come as close as usual. Had I really bugged it that much? Danika and I started to discuss the reasons why the Whip’s have moved towards the other side of the woods. As we stood there, we once again heard the HOO-HAW call of a Barred Owl, followed a few minutes later by a second HOO-HAW. Then it hit us. Apparently a pair of Barred Owls have established themselves next to the road and no matter how much I may want the Whip-poor-will’s to come closer, they know better than to get near a pair of Barred Owls, who would happily eat them. It will be interesting to see what the summer holds for both species (so keep checking on back!)