Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bog suckers and timber doodles

One bird that can’t be overlooked and is here now and just starting to display around the preserve is the American Woodcock. This “mysterious hermit of the alders”, ”timber doodle” or “bog sucker” winters in southern US and comes back early March to get to its breeding grounds here. It then begins one of the strangest breeding displays in the bird-world. Shortly after evening sets it stakes out a flat area of open ground marches around in circles with a pitifully small tail spread and long bill towards the ground resting on his chest calling “peent” “peent” “peent” over and over again almost all night. This march is only interrupted every now and then by a valiant flight circling around and around the parade grounds, circling higher and higher up into the air 200 to 300 feet high. While doing this the wind whistles through the specially modified outer three feathers of his wings and sounds as if he is twittering constantly. Then he begins to dive back down calling “chicharee, chicharee, chicaree” zig-zagging then finally to the ground right where he started or directly onto the back of a receptive female. Then back to “peent, peent, peent”. If you are careful you can run over to the place he takes off while he is flying and wait there without moving and many times he will land again, right at your feet.

The two photos of American Woodcocks are by Richard McCarty the one on the left is an adult on the nest and the one on the right is just a young one.