Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Sounds of Spring: Part 3. American Woodcock.

Part 3 of 3 recounting some of the sounds of Nahanton Park this spring. Future posts will include more current bird songs and calls.

On April 17th the night before Patriots Day, I thought I might be able to get over to Nahanton Park right around dusk and try to find my first woodcock. I parked in the Nahanton St. lot and headed strait up to the benches in woodcock meadow. I sat down to begin my wait while robins called and tried to find the perfect roosting spot. Overhead dozens and dozens of grackles flew streaming across the river towards Cutler Park while a pair of Canadian geese made for the Charles. As the light was rapidly waning, and the robins were settled down leaving only the occasional whinney or "tut" I began to give up hope, thinking that I had arrived too late in the season, in the day. Just as I was thinking I was going to have to try again next year- "peeent" - there it was, the buzzy nasal call of the woodcock (movie).

I sat listening to the "peent call growing more frequent, when suddenly one flew up out of the meadow and flew within meters of me during his ascending flight. I got a great view of the short stubby body and tail. His large dark eye was prominent on his round head and the long beak seemed out of place (for a picture visit this previous post). These odd wading birds decided long ago to eschew the typical habitat for waders by choosing to probe our deciduous forests for earth worms. During his flight his wing feathers produces complex twittering whistles, not too far from the more simple sounds of the morning dove's wings upon take off and landing. While I was unable to capture this display with my 'equipment' the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great recording of the aerial display if you want to listen. The woodcock raised up into the air circling high over head "whistling" and I would loose them in the low light until he dropped quietly back in the tall grasses. I was able to stay for almost an hour, watching the moon rise (image for movie) and several other male woodcocks joined in competing for attention and posturing. I wondered if there were any female woodcocks there that night or if they were already tending to their eggs. If they were listening would they have been half as impressed as I was?

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