Spring officially arrived for me today because I had two firsts – the first eastern phoebe and the first woodcock.
I haven’t managed to see any woodcock in the last few years because I never got around to looking for them. There’s certain places locally that I know to find them, but I’ve been too lazy to get in the car and drive to then stand out in the near dark and cold on the chance that the night was warm enough and windless enough to suit them and their dizzying courtship display.
Well, guess what? I had woodcock almost in my backyard this morning! Our property backs up to a small park with athletic fields and a small market and farm bordered by wet woods. I was up before the sun today because of the time change and a bird trip to the Pine Barrens. After a shower I was here in the office with the window open a little so I could hear the cardinals and robins greeting the day when I heard the first “Peeent!” from the field behind the house. I thought for sure that I had imagined it, but putting my ear to the window confirmed what I’d heard. I stepped out the back door in my robe and saw a woodcock twittering over the house. It amazes me to find these birds so close to home when for years I’ve been driving out to Sandy Hook or the fields around the college to see them.
I took a walk back to the farm this evening just at dusk and was treated to a show by half a dozen or so woodcock. What a treat! They’re fun to watch because no two birds fly alike. Some go straight up and hover at tree-top level, some corkscrew off low to the ground, and many zig and zag through the brush making it very hard to follow them with binoculars in the dying light. Sometimes one will take off or land almost at your feet.
I have to wonder how long I’ve been missing out on this! Now that I know they’re back there, I’ll be sure to listen for them at dusk.
Image from Google Images