Thoughts on a Bio-blitz and More

Evidence of Things Not Seen

As dusk turns to dark, when the last hint of red is disappearing in the west, we drive down a dusty two-track close to the east branch of the Maple River. We stop close to a clearing in the scrubby second growth forest, a place where there are just a few stunted oaks and acres of thigh-high bracken fern.

We’ve come to try our luck calling out whip-poor-wills. It’s been years since I’ve seen the bird or heard its song, one I associate with the very beginnings and ends of summer nights in the northern forest. The name is supposed to sound like its call—and perhaps it does. The call does begin and end on strong notes, but that softer middle area—the “poor”—seems to be made of many notes, playing off each other in a pattern of harmonics that defies words.

When the sky is almost dark, we play our recording of a whip-poor-will call. Nothing happens. In a couple of minutes, we play it again. Nothing. And, then, not 30 feet away, a call, louder than our recording. We play back once more and the bird starts singing rapidly, with barely a breath between songs. There’s a second bird off to our left. Two more behind. A fifth starts singing a little farther away, back behind us to the south. All of them are singing loudly, almost aggressively, as if they are daring us to come into their territory. We play the recording a couple of more times, hoping a bird will come out and dive-bomb us, so we can get a glimpse of its black profile against the slightly lighter sky.

But they are content simply to sing at us. Their song surrounds us for fifteen or twenty minutes. And then they all stop singing at the same time, as if on cue. We never see one of them.

By Keith Taylor

Article Comments

  • Anonymous

    What a treat to know the Biological Station is still alive and well. My father, David S. Shetter, B.S. Biology 1932, M.S. 1933, Ph.D. Zoology, 1937, enjoyed many summers there and until recently we had a scrapbook showing the activities and the friends he met there. Unfortunately, the storage space in Florida retirement homes dictates that some things have to be cleaned out. Wish I had known where to send it. This was definitely a seminal experience for a city guy from Cleveland. He loved everthing and had a hard time deciding what to do for his advanced degrees – ichthyology, entymology or herpetology.

    Dad subsequently went on to become the director of the Hunt Creek Fisheries Experiment Station in Lewiston from 1943 until his death in 1969. This is now under DNR management. My brother and I grew up at the “Lab”. A wonderful place to learn about the out of doors – many students and scholars coming and going. All summer there were folks camped out on the property observing or collecting. We learned VERY early not to disturb anyone or anything in jars, nets or collecting trays.

    There were no data bases established for many things we take for granted today. Hunt Creek has one of the longest data bases in existence for a freshwater trout stream. I certainly hope the current budget crises does not put that in jeopardy.

    Call Andy Nuhfer, the current director and have him show you the scrapbook I did on the history of Hunt Creek last year. I think you could do a good article on that and what the Lovells Historical Society is doing for the fishing lodges on the North Branch and the Main Stream. All of this was tied together in the beginning.

    Keep up the good work!

    Sincerely,

    Alice Shetter Hoelzer-Hawthorne
    3808 Doune Way
    Clermont, FL 34711