Whip-poor-will  © Wil Hershberger Whip-poor-wills and Yellow-breasted Chat singing at the break of dawn at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. 4:15am, 30 May 2016. © Lang Elliott. Please play at a low volume to simulate a natural listening experience.

During my recent recording expedition, I spent the night camping at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. I had no particular goal in mind other than re-visiting several locations where I’ve recorded in the past in hopes of finding something interesting.

I camped next to a swampy area, recorded a soundscape at dusk, and then retired for the night. Surprisingly (for me), there were no owl or coyote visitations to interrupt my slumber, so I slept soundly for nearly six hours … a record for me during field season. I rose promptly at 4am in the morning, jumped into my car, and headed for a favorite spot around ten miles away. I had only driven a mile or two when I suddenly came upon a Whip-poor-will, its eyes shining red in the middle of the dirt road. He flew as I got out of the car, but soon began singing from the surrounding forest. I grabbed my gear and walked in his direction.

Soon another Whip-poor-will joined in the chorus, and, to my complete surprise, a Yellow-breasted Chat began sounding off from an brushy clearing next to the road. I set up my mic and hit record. What followed was quite engaging, a veritable “whip-poor-will-a-thon” accented by the periodic song phrases of the chat. Meditative? NOT! But interesting for sure. Right?

I have a mixed relationship with whip-poor-wills. On the one hand I think they are one of the coolest birds ever, with a magical sound that enlivens the forest like no other. But they can also get on my nerves because they never seem to shut up. I remember one night in the Kentucky woods long ago when a whip-poor-will pounded me so hard that I scarcely got an ounce of sleep. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to feature this recording to celebrate their amazing performance. I sure wish they occurred where I live in upstate New York … or at least I think that would be a good thing, but not if they drown out the Barred Owls and completely dominate the nighttime soundscape.

Note: Listen also for the Whip-poor-will’s calls … a throaty awg-awg-awg-awg-awg-awg, and a liquid pit-pit-pit-pit … both occur in the featured recording.

Just for fun, here is another Whip-poor-will soundscape that I recorded over twenty years ago at Land Between the Lakes. This one also features Whip-poor-wills, along with the the ringing peeps of Spring Peepers, the gentle chirps of Spring Field Crickets, the throaty croaks of a Great Blue Heron, and the huffing snorts of a White-tailed Deer. Quite an interesting mix, don’t you think?

Marsh Habitat - Land Between the LakesFeaturing Whip-poor-wills, Spring Peepers, Crickets, Great Blue Heron, and White-tailed Deer. Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky. 11pm, 15 April 1995.© Lang Elliott. Please play at a low volume to simulate a natural listening experience.

Let me know what you think of these engaging Whip-poor-will recordings!

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