The Common Poorwill, Phalaenoptilus nuttallii, was just about the final bird of the San Benito County Big Day, April 29, 2011 with Scott Terrill, Steve Rottenborn and Don Doolittle. I spotted this small nightjar, on the side of Panoche Valley Road, just as we were leaving the valley floor. Looking at the image, below, it seems that there might just be a tiny piece of trash, or rock on the side of the road. The bright, orange eye shine gave the bird away to me. This orange color is just about the same color as Bott Dots, the raised markers on some roads. However, eye shine moves, and Bott Dots don't. It helps to drive relatively slowly.
After stopping the car, Don slowly got out, and shot the image, below of the little critter. This was the only bird that we photographed throughout the day, as we were just too busy looking for birds!
Poorwills are one of the few birds known to hibernate, or go into a torpor, during winter. This image shows it's cryptic coloration. Poorwills nest in San Benito County, and can sometimes be found on warm winter nights. I have seen them on the following roads in San Benito County: Highway 25, Panoche Valley Road, Quien Sabe Road, Gloria Road, San Juan Canyon Road, Lone Tree Road and Coalinga Road. They are fairly widespread in the arid regions of the county, from one end to the other. Their sound is a very distinctive, loud, "poor-will" call.
Images, copyright, Don Doolittle.