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Stone Bridge Nighthawk Watch

John Turner points to a flock of Common Nighthawks passing overhead. Photo by Patricia Paladines

By John L. Turner

Beginning on Friday, August 27th, the Four Harbors Audubon Society will kick off its fifth season of the “Stone Bridge Nighthawk Watch” at Frank Melville Park in Setauket. Each night participants will meet on the north sidewalk of the Stone Bridge (where Main Street crosses the water) and count Common Nighthawks as they pass overhead during their fall migration.

The Watch begins at 5:30 p.m. and concludes at dusk each night, when observers typically see bats emerge to forage for insects over the ponds. Sometimes participants are rewarded with a dozen or so nighthawks feeding on aerial insects low over the ponds before it gets too dark.

Nighthawks, related to whip-poor-wills, are highly migratory birds that leave the Northern hemisphere in the autumn as their insect prey wanes, ending up a few weeks later in the Amazon River basin where they overwinter. Unfortunately, as with so many bird species the Common Nighthawk is declining and the Nighthawk Watch was established by the Four Harbors Audubon Society as an effort to gather more specific long-term data about its numbers and population trends. 

Participants often see other birds species such as Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Great Blue and Green Herons, Belted Kingfisher, many types of songbirds and mute swans. The Watch runs through to October 6. Please join us. The only items recommended for you to bring along are binoculars and a healthy curiosity about the natural world!

Frank Melville Memorial Park is located at 1 Old Field Road, Setauket. For more information, visit www.4has.org.