Dancing Woodcocks

By Brynlee Kimball

The night of April 17, 2015 was spectacular. As we waited for everyone to arrive, we all watched the bird feeders. A White-breasted Nuthatch, a Black-capped Chickadee, a Downy Woodpecker, a Hairy Woodpecker, a Northern Cardinal and a little Pine Siskin are what our eyes beheld. Then we started inside the McLane Audubon Center. Our guide Phil Brown told us about the American Woodcock (what it eats, how it eats, its size, etc.) and we all learned its nicknames: mud bat, bog sucker, big eyes, and my personal favorite, the timberdoodle.

Then we were off along the Concord bike path right up the road. A few of us spotted the Red-bellied Woodpecker (including me!) on our way there. Next we walked up the path that was next to the field. In the field we saw many American Robins, an Eastern Bluebird, and heard a Killdeer. Above us flying was a Brown-headed Cowbird, Mourning Doves and even one of the largest raptors, the genuine Osprey. As darkness fell we all listened over the song of the robins but the woodcock’s “peenting” could barely be heard. So we walked into the field, hoping to get closer to the woodcocks on the outer edge. Then we all heard the woodcock. Then we saw it spiral upwards. It circled around above us and then dove in a zigzag spiral. A breathtaking sight to see. Then we heard another one towards the path. Then it did its little “dance” and actually landed on the path. Everyone got a chance to see the Timberdoodle (a.k.a. American Woodcock). He was a beautiful light, rusty-brown red. Very pretty. We counted five Big Eyes (a.k.a. American Woodcock) in total, judging by sound and sight. This exhilarating performance by the woodcock made for a night no one will soon forget.

Harriers, including Brynlee Kimball, and their parents listen and look for woodcocks at the McLane Center on April 17.
Photograph by Henry Walters