Inspired by the amazing artwork of 12 year-old David Barth, my nephew and my daughter and I spent the afternoon drawing birds from the pages of my mother in-law’s enormous bird book collection. My nephew chose a Green Kingfisher and my daughter and I started with kites – the Mississippi and the Snail Kites. Of course we had to visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to listen to each of the bird’s calls. This award-winning website is extremely addictive so we were soon searching for various birds with beautiful and/or unique calls. The Whip-poor-will, also known as nightjars, are famous for their eerie and hauntingly beautiful calls, and they often appear as omens of death in American folklore.
It made sense to include the Whip-poor-will (vs. the more common nightingale) in a traditional alba.
A whippoorwill sings
Her bright, nocturnal song
Into the fading light of evening.
Near her nest, hidden among the rushes
Lie lovers, warm and unhindered
In rustic dens of dull colored leaves,
Where the crimson palpitations
Of beating hearts and kiss-closed eyes
Are startled by a cock’s crow,
And the discovering sunrise
That catches, if only for a moment,
The departing of souls.