An Unusual Field Season


Lady Sisyphus and a male who might be trying to persuade her to abandon her eggs and start a new clutch with him. She is not having it.


For nighthawks this was an unusual season.  This year, only 14 of last year’s 22 breeding females returned to their rooftop.  They could be at other rooftops, they might have died during the migration season, or they might be skipping the nesting season and just hanging around. This is my last field season in South Dakota, so I will never know.

Nighthawks returned 2-3 weeks later than last year, possibly due to the May Gulf of Mexico storms (that also wiped out some early nests on the Gulf).

On the flip side, June was a very mild month.  So many of the chick and egg die-offs associated with high-wind thunderstorms and heat waves didn’t happen for the first brood this year.

And one lucky bird, whom I have named Lady Sisyphus (pictured above), finally hatched an egg, the first in five attempts.  The chick died, sadly, but hey, that’s progress.


Eclipses and Birds


What do birds do during an eclipse?  Much depends on the day cycle of the species.  Is its diurnal, nocturnal or crepuscular?

As usual, Cornell Lab of Ornithology put out a great post on this subject.


  • Diurnal aerial insectivores like Purple Martins dropped from the sky and roosted.
  • Chimney Swifts that start circling their roost site at dusk began to do so.
  • Crepuscular nighthawks were active.
  • Nocturnal migrants dispersed.

More locally here in South Dakota, Dr. KC Jensen, of SDSU, reported the dawn chorus of many birds.