My encounter with the ABA Bird of the Year at Dinosaur Provincial Park

My better half and I were evacuated from our neighborhood in Calgary during what will likely be known as the worst flood in Alberta’s history. While it wasn’t completely unexpected, we had our camping gear packed and ready to go, and a general idea of where we would head to wait out the estimated 48-72 hours before we could head home, I had no idea just how bad things would end up being. We spent our evacu-cation at Kinbrook Island Provincial Park just south of Brooks, Alberta, and on Saturday, June 22nd took a visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park.

The weather was warm, sunny, and cooperative for both seeing the amazing landscape, rock formations, and historically important sites, as well as providing great opportunity to both see and hear the local birds that are normally much harder to find back home. It wasn’t until we were finishing up our afternoon when I heard a distinct, loud, and low “PEENT!” directly above me.

Common Nighthawk giving me a low flyby

Common Nighthawk giving me a low flyby

I was content with that shot, but I continued hearing the distinctive calls in the distance, and with the white and gray background of the clouds quickly moving to the east, I was able to pick out the boomerang-shaped silhouette against the backdrop.

Common Nighthawk in the distance

Common Nighthawk in the distance

Common Nighthawk against the clouds

Common Nighthawk against the clouds

A dark silhouette against the gray skies

A dark silhouette against the gray skies

Getting a little closer...

Getting a little closer…

Closer still...

Closer still…

They appeared to be flying over the river, hunting the flying insects that were certainly in abundance, as my many mosquito bites spoke testament to. The Cottonwood Trail is a fairly short loop that follows the river on the north end of the main driving loop, and I figured it would be my best opportunity to get a bit of a closer look at the Common Nighthawks, hoping maybe I’d even find one perched down low. I got my first wish in spades, but my second, sadly not this time around. Even still, having not one, but two of the Nighthawks dive low enough for me to get the following series of photos was a real treat.

That's more like it!

That’s more like it!


It's coming right for us!

It’s coming right for us!

... aaand there's the payoff.

… aaand there’s the payoff.

And here it comes again on a second pass!

And here it comes again on a second pass!

I couldn't ask for a more cooperative subject.

I couldn’t ask for a more cooperative subject.

All told, I counted no less than five of them in the air over the Cottonwood Trail, in addition to the pair I first spotted at the north end of the park. Given their namesake, it seemed incredibly odd for them to be hunting so actively at mid-day, (these shots were all taken between 12:30 and 2:15 PM) and in such numbers.

nighthawk 12

Off in search of better hunting.

And then, just as fast as they’d come in, they flew off into the distance again, in search of better hunting and a bigger meal. Until next time, Nighthawks!

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6 Responses to My encounter with the ABA Bird of the Year at Dinosaur Provincial Park

  1. Pingback: Blog Birding #142 « ABA Blog

  2. Dan Arndt says:

    Thanks for the wonderful comments!

    I was lucky enough that aside from the hassle of evacuating and minor cleanup in my yard, the floods didn’t have much of an effect on my home. I am thankful though, since otherwise I don’t know that I would have been able to get back out into that area to camp this year, so there’s a silver lining there somewhere!

    – Dan

  3. Dawn says:

    Unbelievable, I’m so happy you got to see them first hand! I know I’ll probably never seen such a wonderful sight where I live! Thanks so much for sharing these, gorgeous shots, btw 🙂 Hopefully all will be ok again in your neighborhood near Calgary. Prayers and thoughts to all of you.

    Take care

    Dawn (an hour east of Ottawa, Ontario)

  4. Susan Ellis says:

    Gorgeous shots ! one my favourite birds, and in a beautiful park I’ve been to. Good luck with the re entry into your home area!

  5. Rohrerbot says:

    Really great shots!!! Extremely cool bird and wonderful you found this bird in light:) Tricky birds:)