I love night sounds in the country—the croaking tree frogs, whirring crickets, coyotes howling, owls hooting. I love it all! Well I love it all EXCEPT for ONE nightly critter call… those blasted whippoorwills!
Whippoorwills are small nocturnal birds. They have this annoying call that they repeat quickly over and over and over and over and over again. They say their name: “Whip-Poor-WILL!” The “Whip” is a short staccato and then drops down to a lower pitched “Poor” and rises up to a high, shrill, ear piercingly loud “WILL!”
Every other night sound in the country is a soothing symphony of white noise. But the high pitched finale of the whippoorwill call painfully smacks your eardrum. It is an accidental off key tuba toot in the middle of a Bach sonata times a hundred. Harsh. Jarring.
The whippoorwills surround our cabin at night, foraging on the leafy ground, calling for mates. Sometimes it sounds like there must be hundreds of them, their high pitched calls hammering my eardrums in stereo every second of every long minute as I try to drift into sleep. They invade my dreams and jerk me awake through the country summer nights. Whip-poor-WILL! Whip-poor-WILL! Whip-poor-WILL!
And then as if that weren’t bad enough, even more unsettling is when all hundred of their calls strangely shift into unison. Imagine turn blinkers on a row of cars waiting at the traffic light ahead of you, all blinking at different times, different speeds. And then for three crazy seconds they all blink in exact unison. It’s a fun phenomena when it happens to car blinkers—kinda’ feels like all the planets are aligning. But when it’s the whippoorwill eardrum hammers lining up to pound your brain in perfect symmetry, you’ll swear you’re going insane.
And they do this ALL NIGHT LONG. At midnight when you lurch awake in the night, yep, they are still whippoorwilling. Two a.m. when you have to get up to pee… yep, still at it. Six a.m. and the sun peeks into the cabin window… you guessed it!
They are quite mysterious birds. After all this time, I’ve never seen one. Their brown speckled plumage blends perfectly into the brush as they blast out their nightly songs. It is rumored that if you point directly at them, they will stop singing. But that hasn’t ever worked for me. Believe me, I’ve tried it, sitting in bed hungry for sleep, pointing everywhere I can think of. Nope. Whip-poor-WILL!
Why God, did you have to make the whippoorwills?! Every other part of your country night orchestra is dreamy perfection! Sigh… I suppose there will always be something here in our current exiled existence… the tick on the daisy… thorns on the blackberry bush… always something to keep us longing for heaven… Whip-poor-WILL!