The Carden Alvar is one of the
best spots in Ontario to hear Eastern Whip-poor-wills. Listening to
Whip-poor-wills on moonlit nights far away from human lights and
sounds is enchanting.
The male Whip-poor-willís loud 3-syllable whip-poor-WILL song
is accented (loudest) on the third syllable. The song is so
distinctive that even non-birders recognize it. One bird was counted
singing 1088 times without pausing at the rate of one call per
second. They sing from
the ground, low horizontal bare branches and fence posts.
inhabit deciduous, coniferous and mixed forest types. Breeding
habitat is dependent on woodland structure instead of tree species.
habitat is dry semi-open and patchy woodlands with clearings,
providing daytime cover and nighttime openings for hawking moths
(preferred prey) and beetles. It avoids closed canopy forests and
large open areas.
The Eastern Whip-poor-will has declined over 60% since 1970. It is
listed as Threatened in Canada by the Committee on the Status
of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Causes of the decline on
the breeding grounds are maturing forests, regrowth of openings,
intensive agriculture, urbanization, and fewer night flying insects.
Determining causes on the wintering grounds in Central America is
more difficult, but
pesticides and rampant deforestation for agriculture
are key factors.
WHEN: The ideal time to
hear Whip-poor-wills is mid-May to mid-July. On dark moonless
nights, they sing only for a short period just after dusk and just
before dawn. When the moon is bright, they sing more and for longer
periods into the night. A full moon is best when they may be heard
all night. Choose a calm, clear, warm night above 10į C.
Whip-poor-wills are normally easily heard
near the Sedge Wren Marsh on Wylie Road
and along Alvar Road just east of Sugar
Bush Road. However, if you hunger for a night adventure, you
can hear up to a dozen Whip-poor-wills on either of the two
following routes, but I caution you to check
road conditions by day before going at night. (1) From
Sedge Wren Marsh drive north
6.6 km to the Carden T at Alvar Road.
(2) Or from Lake Dalrymple Road go east
4.7 km on Alvar Road to Wylie
Road. Stop at intervals to listen
and watch for
Whip-poor-wills sitting on the road. Their bright orange-red eyes
glow like live coals in car headlights. You also will hear Common
Nighthawks calling overhead and experience their spectacular
ACCOMMODATION: To increase
your night birding time in Carden, I recommend staying nearby
overnight. The Lake Dalrymple Resort has housekeeping cottages and
the Best Western Hotel in Orillia is excellent.
thank Michel Gosselin for proofing and Jean Iron for the photo.