Saturday, March 10, 2012

Night of the Woodcock

Jupiter (left) and Mars (right)
Inspired by Suzette's woodcock encounter, I headed to Nahanton late yesterday afternoon, arriving around 5:30pm. I figured at the vary least I had a few minutes to explore before the woodcocks started displaying, so I walked around the lower gardens where I may have glimpsed the hermit thrush while tons of grackles streamed overhead. The soccer field was chalk full of about 40 robins, while the brush by the trail held a song sparrow and an American tree sparrow. A distant cooing gave away a mourning dove. I mallard pair was dabbling in the vernal pool and across the river there was a tree dripping with red-wing black birds giving their "Conk-la-ree" calls.

I finally made it up to the meadow and found Jane who also came to get a front row seat for the show. This night, the woodcocks started about 10 minutes later and our first sign of them was a little wing-whir and seeing them fly by. In flight this odd creature appeared more like a moth or bat than a bird, with short wide wings and stubby little tails. But no bat or moth has such a long bill! We stayed for about half an hour drinking in this marvelous sight and were lucky enough to have one woodcock land close enough to us that we could just make him out in the darkness. With every "peent" call he gave he opened his wings a tad as if to shrug, threw out his chest, his head back, and opened his bill has if each "peent" took all the force he could muster. All told we could make out 3 calls: the "peent" which starts Suzettes video below, then at 7-8 seconds he gives some grunting calls more like a rail, then at 11 seconds the video ends with the wing-whir. The woodcocks best auditory feat is a more twittering wing-whir (maybe with some vocalizations?) give at the height of his aerial display is just hard to capture and best enjoyed in person.

As I walked back to my car by the gardens there were woodcocks "peenting" in the soccer field and in the lower gardens! I am quite confident we had at least four woodcocks, but it could have been so much more. Nahanton Park was all Woodcock Meadow for this evening.


  1. Matt,

    I was there last night too! I brought my elderly neighbor over to the lower gardens. She was thrilled. I had heard tell that they came to the soccer field and meadow near Winchester St., so Thursday night I stopped by on my way home from work. Sure enough, they were there! Some of them even seemed to be peenting from the woods near the parking lot.

  2. P.S. Your photo is beautiful!