Saturday May 9th started with snow, only an inch but cold and windy, so not at all appealing for a walk. It was Cornell’s Big Bird Day, so I felt I was supposed to go birding, but I wimped out and stayed inside till midday, when it cleared up. Then I drove to a nearby hill for a hike, and on the way back, crossing the road, a woodcock:
I had never seen an American Woodcock, Scolopax minor, so I was hugely excited. I stopped (of course), and got out my camera. Instead of scuttling off into the woods it stopped, and slowly hunkered down:
And there it stayed. I crept slowly closer, it didn’t budge, and I got this photo:
It did not seem to be injured when it was walking, and my guess is she had a nest nearby, and this was her attempt to hide in plain sight, sadly not very effective on tarmac. I left her in peace, and drove on.
I have since been reading up on woodcocks. They do indeed sometime react to threats near their nests by freezing low on the ground. They have the wonderful local name of Timberdoodles, which is what I will now always call them. Their eyes are on the sides of their heads, so they have 360 degree vision, and the tips of their bills are flexible, to help them dig for earthworms, their main diet. Look closely below:
The males have a famously flamboyant mating ritual, called “roding”, in which they fly at dusk saying “Peent”. I couldn’t find any good videos of this, let me know if you find one and I’ll add a link.
I am sad to say that their close relative the Eurasian Woodcock is traditionally a British upper-class delicacy. Lord Grantham and his family would have enjoyed roasted woodcocks like these.