This is momma nightjar. She is watching over her nest in one of
the out islands of the Bahamas. Many out islands are remote and nearly
unpopulated. That's good for the nightjars because they don't have to
worry about feral cats, unleashed dogs, or humans molesting them and
destroying their nesting sites.
The tiny feathers on the head of this nightjar are a miracle of
creation. When I looked at them through my telephoto, I was completely
blown away by her delicate feathered headdress. Closer inspection
revealed a "feather moustache" made of even smaller feathers coming off the
beak. I suppose ornithologists know all about beak feathers, but for
the crew of Exit Only, a feathered beak came as a major surprise.
Momma nightjar isn't tame, but she also isn't frightened by our presence.
She actually let us come to within about three feet of her without hopping
away or taking flight. I'm sure the reason she stuck around was
because we were in close proximity to her nest.
We actually stumbled on the nest by accident while we were exploring on the
fringes of the beach. She was so well camouflaged that we didn't see
her until we were right by her nest. Until she moved, we didn't know
she was there. She hopped off her nest, but she didn't go far - she remained
within ten feet of her nest roosting on a branch on the ground, surveying us
as we surveyed her.
We backed away from the nest because we didn't want to upset momma nightjar.
We withdrew a reasonable distance, took a few pictures using a telephoto
lens, and when we were about ten feet away, the bird promptly hopped back on
When you sail around the world on a boat and visit remote islands, you have
the privilege of seeing nesting sites that can only survive in the absence
of man and the feral animals that he brings with him. If you bring
rats, dogs, and cats to these islands, the bird life radically shifts to
other locations because they can no longer nest safely on the ground.
Either the eggs will be eaten, the birds will be eaten, or both.
That's why you need sanctuaries - remote real estate free from the
It's thrilling to be with animals in the wild. It doesn't matter
whether I am with gazelles on the plains of the Serengeti, or standing a few
feet from a nightjar on a remote Bahamas beach. It's an experience
that connects with wild animals in a special way. You see, they aren't
in cages. I am on their turf, and I am their guest. They can
gallop away or spread their wings and fly if I am a bad guest. If I am
a good one, they will tolerate me and maybe even treat me as if I was their friend.