Seen my first woodcock of the season tonight. Walking to my car from the gym, and I thought I heard one flying. I stopped and listened, heard it flying around, then I seen it. About 30 seconds later it got quiet, then I heard it making that funny noise! Cute birds!!
They are gamebirds most places and, indeed, are very tasty if "hung up" for a couple of days after taking them. They are very good stuffed with a wild rice filling. You need about 3 to make a meal. Many people find them rather "gamey." After all they have a diet of earthworms! When I was in my 20's i used to hunt them with a friend. We used his mother's Cocker Spaniel to find them and flush them. The dog was a throwback to the original Cocker Spaniels which were originally bred by poachers for hunting the European Woodcock. The dogs would find the bird and the poachers would then throw a net over both the bird and the dog! When the season was over my friends dog went back to being a lapdog for his mother. That dog sure did love to hunt though!
These are great photos of a secretive bird--thank you for posting.
My birding buddies and I have visited a local singing field three times this week to watch the annual woodcock display. It's difficult to conduct research when you are laughing at the antics, but we are trying to see if there is any pattern in number and loudness of a woodcock's "peeants" before takeoff.
It is possible, but who knows for sure. Great images! I've never seen one by daylight.
I have visited a Woodcock display ground for six nights over the last two weeks and I've followed one male's display pattern on four of those nights. FWIW, and keep in mind this is one individual, here are my initial findings.
The spot is open land with a few small trees, various grasses and low ground cover type plants, bordered by dense woods and scrub brush with a pond and wetlands nearby.
The bird gave a few low volume calls from the wooded area before entering the open area.
The bird entered the open land from the wooded area at the same spot (observed 3X, was never seen entering from anywhere else) and immediately started penting for three to five minutes
Once in the open land the bird walked and made short flights close to the ground stopping to call once or twice at various points on what seemed to be a territory about 100 wide. This call was not made from successive points as if the bird was going around in a circle or square calling as it went. There seemed no discernable pattern to the place where the calls were made. It was over here, over there type thing. To this point the penting was not full volume. On four nights I sat in the middle of this territory.
After apparently being satisfied that his territory was staked out. The bird began calling in earnest; very loud! After several minutes of this I could here ascending flight noises. The bird seemed to be flying up in a corkscrew pattern but I did not observe this I just heard it. At best I caught a glimpse of the bird rising in flight but it was difficult to follow in low light.
I usually heard no sound for less than a minute before hearing the sound made on descent. Smack in the middle of this territory there is a small leafless birch tree. The bird seemed to use this as a marker and descended within ten feet of this tree almost every time. When he had fallen to the point he was near hitting the tree he would then fly parallel to the ground to one of two favorite spots and set to calling again. Both spots were almost equal distant from and on opposite sides of the tree. He would then set to calling again and repeated the same pattern. Over the four nights I was in close observation I witnessed about 20 flights total.
On the first night I found this individual, after about a half hour of this predictable behavior, he flew about a hundred yards north and set up shop there. My presence may have caused this as I was moving about the area at the time..
I made these observations for the purpose of trying to establish patterns that would allow me to photograph the bird in the dark as I would need to pre focus on a fixed object in the light and wait for the bird to show. The bird did not seem to be bothered by the flash at all as it continues calling without missing a beat as took the images above. It was aware of my presence in the area but did not seem to display any distress or pressure as long as I remain still or at least 25 feet away. Flash photography of flights did not interrupt the bird?s behavior either but I was unable to focus properly on a moving target in the dark
I am hesitant to draw too many conclusions from all of this as I am one observer of one bird over a short period of time. I was predisposed to look for patterns. I did not try to count the number of calls between flights, time between flights, or duration of flights. The most I can say is that this American Woodcock?s display behavior appears to be more predictable and less random than I had expected.