Last night, forty fine folks joined us for a Woodcock Watch and Campfire program. The day had turned from grey and chilly to warm and sunny, and everyone decided to take advantage of the wonderful weather to spend an evening outside looking for woodcocks, strange little shorebirds that left the shore many many years ago in favor of more wooded uplands.
Our program began with a campfire, where people got to roast marshmallows,
and socialize while we waited for the magic hour – when the sun had set and dusk settled in.
About 8:00 we started our walk out to the prairie portion of the property. It is here, in the open spaces, that the male woodcock commences his courtship ritual.
We sat on the mostly dry ground and waited. As dusk settled in, we soon heard the distinctive nasal peent of a woodcock as he strutted his patch of turf. After a while, he took off, flying upward in a spiral, his wings making a twittering sound. At the top of his flight, he turned around and plummeted to the ground, chirpping while he zigged and zagged his way earthward, soon to land very near the same spot from which he took off.
This strutting and flying, peeting, twittering and chirping, is all done to attract the attention of nearby females. Those who are suitably impressed are mated. The males mate with as many females as they can; they don’t stick around to help raise the families they help create, though.
Sadly, I am unable to post the recording I made of the woodcock peeting about eight feet in front of our group. If you want to hear it, you can zip over to my own blog (here) and at the bottom of the post play the recording. Not only will you hear the peent, you will also hear a bit of wing twittering.
I encourage everyone to go out some fine evening this spring and listen for woodcocks. It’s a great way to spend an evening with friends and family – or even on your own. Be sure to dress warmly – and you might even want to bring a blanket to sit upon, just in case the ground is damp.