Sky Cutter - Salish Current

Represented in Sky Cutter, the common nighthawk resides here from late May until the end of August and early September, nesting in open meadows and forest edges and feeding on flying insects. (Tony Angell courtesy image © 2023)

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In the waning light of an evening in June, I stood on a ridge on the south end of Lopez Island that overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A portion of pine and fir forest swept out below me toward the sea and a pair of nighthawks were close at hand hunting insects above the tree tops. Their acrobatic flights were punctuated with raspy calls. Were their pronouncements in triumph over a capture of a meal or just keeping in touch with one another? My shared moments with the birds are a powerful affirmation of summer along the Salish Sea, with all its promise and splendor. 

The common nighthawk resides here from late May until the end of August and early September. Open meadow and forest edges are essential habitat for nesting, along with a healthy food source of flying insects. These birds are extraordinary travelers and winter as far as the Amazon Basin of South America before returning here to find a home to sustain their populations. Ironically and contrary to their name, the common nighthawk’s numbers are diminishing, which is yet another of Nature’s signals that our efforts of protecting, restoring and stewarding our natural heritage must be addressed and sustained.  

— Contributed by Tony Angell

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