Field Reports from the 2012 Nighthawk Season

At a Glance: Nighthawk Season 2012

2012 was a good year on the nighthawk beat in Keene! We identified five individual nighthawks — more than at any other time since Project Nighthawk’s inception in 2007 — and confirmed the presence of a nest on the roof of Elliot Hall at Keene State College, with the successful hatch & likely fledging of two chicks!

August 15, 2012
The KSC nighthawks, as seen through an office window on the second floor of Elliot Hall. (photo © Cheryl Child)

The KSC nighthawk family, as seen through an office window on the second floor of Elliot Hall.
(photo © Cheryl Child)

End of Season Summary

This summer, we identified five individual breeding-season nighthawks in Keene — more than at any other time since Project Nighthawk’s inception in 2007 — and confirmed the presence of a nest on the roof of Elliot Hall at Keene State College, with the successful hatch & likely fledging of two chicks!

Cause for Celebration

Here’s why this is so special:

  1. This is the first confirmation of a nighthawk nest in Keene since Project Nighthawk’s inception in 2007.
  2. This is only the second indication of successful nighthawk breeding in Keene in the last six years.
  3. This is one of only three confirmed nighthawk nests in all of New Hampshire in 2012.
  4. This is the first successful rooftop nest anyone has been able to confirm in the entire state of New Hampshire since we started looking in 2007. (The other two confirmed rooftop nests, in Concord, did not produce chicks.)
  5. In Concord, nighthawks have returned to nest again at successful nest sites, so we may be able to watch this gal raise her brood from the very beginning next year, now that we know where to look!
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August 8, 2012

Successful Nighthawk Nest Confirmed at KSC!

The KSC nighthawk family, as seen through an office window on the second floor of Elliot Hall. (photo © Cheryl Child)

The KSC nighthawk family, as seen through an office window on the second floor of Elliot Hall.
(photo © Cheryl Child)

Yesterday, we confirmed the presence of a Common Nighthawk nest on the roof of Elliot Hall at Keene State College, with the successful hatch & likely fledging of two chicks!

We’ve been monitoring nighthawks above the skies of Keene all summer, in the hopes of documenting successful breeding of this state-endangered species. As it turns out, KSC staff at Elliot Hall had been watching a female nighthawk nest less than a foot from a second-floor office window all summer long — the mother nighthawk laid two eggs in mid-June, they hatched in early July, and they fledged in mid-July! KSC HVAC technicians took special care not to disturb the nest when they had to make repairs to a nearby rooftop air conditioning unit, and KSC staffer Cheryl Child provided confirmation by snapping some photographs (through the window) of the new mother, guarding her chicks.

Last Saturday, a Campus Safety Officer at the College also took a photo of one of the fledglings resting on a ground-level windowsill at Huntress Hall, proof that at least one of the chicks has successfully fledged.

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June 22, 2012

Five Nighthawks

Common Nighthawk in flight. (photo © Kenneth Cole Schneider)

Common Nighthawk in flight.
(photo © Kenneth Cole Schneider)

Last night, eight of us braved the heat to look and listen for (not-so) Common Nighthawks in four locations throughout downtown Keene:  Keene State College, Central Square, Colony Mill, and the West Street shopping plaza. We were able to identify four distinct males and one female. Though small, this number is meaningful because, in the five years of the project leading up to now, we’ve never been able to identify more than four individual breeding season birds in Keene. Keene’s nighthawk population may be growing!

A Few Notes on the Birds

One particularly showy male repeatedly proclaimed his territory above the Media Arts Center at Keene State College, with an extended performance of showstopping dives and booms. Another, likely younger, male with a rather anemic peent (Becky Suomala from New Hampshire Audubon dubbed him “Junior”) hovered around South Main Street, with periodic forays to the skies above KSC. A third male may have been flying between Colony Mill and the Central Square area, and the fourth male’s territory is unknown. The female was spotted foraging above Central Square and flying low and stealth-like across the Keene State College campus, where it’s possible that she’s nesting (!!!)

What does it all mean?

New Hampshire Audubon’s nighthawk observations from Concord indicate that the male’s over-the-top displays might be occurring near, but not at, a nest site, and we watched the female swoop low and out of view last night in the direction of the Redfern Arts Center (which is near, but not at, the center of the resident male’s showy displays.) If the female is nesting, there will be a regular pattern of behavior. Female nighthawks are largely silent, so careful, patient observation is KEY. (For dramatic peenting and aerial acrobatics, which are more exciting to behold though less likely to lead us to a nest site, you can also station yourself outside the Media Arts Center on Appian Way between 8:00 and 9:20 pm on any given evening….or better yet: bring a friend and do a mini-coordinated watch of your own, with one of you at the Redfern and the other at Appian Way.)  As always, precision with regard to recording the timing of the birds’ movements is essential.

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Contact Us

For more information or to volunteer, please contact Brett Amy Thelen at (603) 358-2065 or by email.