Pennsylvania Game News - July 2017 - 25
SPATTERING OF STARS peeked through the partly cloudy night sky. Along
a desolate country road and under the diffuse glow of an unseen moon, the
ping-ping-ping of the door alarm sounded as I exited the state truck. The
date, time, location, and moon phase for the early summer survey was chosen well in
advance to offer the best opportunity of hearing what I desperately was hoping to hear.
I felt hopeful - but not what you would call optimistic - when my watch indicated
it was time to proceed.
The song of the elusive bird was something I had not heard since childhood.
This nighttime serenade was relegated to serving as a musical
score for increasingly distant memories of lazy summer evenings sitting on an uncle's back porch near a patch of woods,
with relatives long since passed, listening to a small bird hauntingly
repeat its name over, and over again.
One minute elapsed. The road behind the truck wrapped around the base
of Hickory Nut Hill, just outside the little village of Waller, in northern Columbia County. From that direction, not too far away, an unmistakable rhythmic,
plaintive call pierced the silence and filled me with nostalgia: Whip-poor
will, whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will. A smile crossed my face. After only
a few repetitions, the calling abruptly stopped and would not resume.
Only other nighttime denizens greeted me at each successive listening location. The last of the spring peepers peeped, American toads
trilled, a great horned owl hooted. The air temperature steadily
dropped as the sky transitioned to mostly cloudy, then completely overcast. Conditions for optimal whip-poor-will
calling gradually worsened and, by the time the route was
completed just before midnight, a drizzling rain
f e l l . "Did you hear any?" my wife later asked
as I wearily crawled into bed. "One," I
replied and drifted off to sleep. She
had no idea how much it meant to
me to hear that single bird.
by William Williams