I have had a certain love/hate relationship with the nighthawks. I love watching them sail around just as the sun set, joining the local bats in search of dinner. I hate the fact that the normal time of day that they show up, makes for very poor photography. Shutter speeds slow down, no matter what settings I use, so I end up with blurry streaks of brown, on a black background. Not very appealing. But, I keep trying. I climb to roof tops, hoping to get enough light, and perhaps an early appearance will finally get me that one great photo.

Last Weekend, I was enjoying our first waves of migrant shorebirds, out on the tidal flats, when much to my surprise, there sat a Lesser Nighthawk, Chordeiles acutipennis just sitting on a mangrove limb. Now, you have to understand, I have seen lots of nighthawks during the day, and every so often I will end up nearly stepping on one, which is roosting on their normal ground level location. With the surprise of it flushing up in front of me, and the fact that nearly every time, they weave their way out thru the brush and vanish, I never even get a lens focused on them.

As you can see from my first photo, I was looking straight into the sun, but I took the shot, just to get this momentous occasion recorded.


Then, using every bit of stealth I own, I began to circle around the bird, into a better position.


Once I had a better angle, and got a couple of shots taken, let’s try for closer…


Closer was good, can we do better?

At this point I have no doubt in my mind, that this bird was watching me with some small smirk on its face. Me thinking I was so cool, so sneaky, while all the time it was just waiting to blast away without a care in the world, at least not about me anyway!

I am quite OK with getting excited about this Lesser Nighthawk, that this bird is so very common, and I see dozens of them every month. My day was made. I had the image that I had always hoped for, the bird cooperated quite nicely and the image was saved for eternity. Now, if I could just get one flying…

Written by Tom Brown
Tom Brown grew up in the high desert area of central Oregon. His love for birds and photography started at a young age. Thru the course of time, travel, and a lot of different occupations, he ended up living in Seattle, and met a girl with a sailboat. When he is not scouring whatever area they are in, looking for the next great bird photo, he can be found trying to earn enough money for the next adventure, and of course, a new lens or camera body! Having been nick-named “The Bird Nerd” by his last remaining friends and family, Tom continues search for that next lifer, and the accompanying photo that goes with it. Find his continuing adventures, photographs, and guiding opportunities at Focus on Feathers.