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Woodcocks Gone Wild Tour Report, 4/13/2024

Updated: Apr 18

 After a long and successful run, we changed venues for 2024, hosting our Woodcocks Gone Wild evening on our new property in Durham. Considering the unsettled (aka horrific) weather of late, we were happy just to have an evening where we could even have the hope of seeing a displaying woodcock!

American Woodcocks arrived early this year, with the first two already displaying in our yard by 3/15. A few days later, we had five males displaying within site or sound of the property. We were first worried that our 4/6 date would be too late for peak performance. But then the ice storm of 3/23 occurred. Then 14.5 inches of snow on 4/3-4/5.

Very strong winds, occasional snow and/or rain showers, and a foot of snow on the ground forced us to postpone the tour for another week. Unfortunately, as the 13th approached, we were a little worried. One bird – our most confiding star – had not been seen since the ice storm. A second dependable bird disappeared after the snowstorm.  We were down to only two individuals that we had a good chance of seeing by the time the 13th rolled around.

The forecast wasn’t perfect, but it was promising. It was going to be mild, but the widespread scattered showers were less scattered than forecast. And the winds weren’t dying down as quickly as we hoped. Luckily, our new site is much more sheltered than where we used to be at Pinelands, so we felt we had a better chance here on marginal conditions.

What we didn’t expect was how rapidly the Androscoggin River would flood during the day, reaching well over flood stage – higher and earlier than forecast. By dusk, our field was about 60% Androscoggin River, with the usual landing spot of one male was about waist-deep! 

After our usual introduction to the amazing woodcock, and a little discussion about the effects of a climate in crisis (such as insane swings in weather) on this unique bird, we took a walk over to the driest viewing spot we could find. Soon thereafter, one bird, then another, began to “peent.”

Soon one of the birds was in the air, and this one male displayed repeatedly right through darkness. Unfortunately, his launch trajectory made it hard to spot, and only a handful of folks saw the bird. While several enjoyed watching him displaying high overhead, it’s just so tough to get on the bird once it’s at the apex of the flight. So, we just enjoyed the concert – much as a female woodcock would!

A few more passing showers didn’t deter him, either, but no doubt there was some disappointment from the audience. But then, moments before we were about to head back, a woodcock flew across the field, right in front of or just over the entire group, offering an amazing view! It could have been brighter out, but we felt very thankful this bird took pity on us.  My guess it was a female commuting from one male’s spot to another, but it is possible it was just looking for some dry field to field at.

With darkness falling, and the show being a little underwhelming, we extended the tour with some “frogging,” tallying 5 species of newly emerged frogs: Wood Frog, Spring Peeper, Bullfrog, Green Frog, and Pickerel Frog, including some massive fresh masses of Wood Frog eggs.

Next year, let’s hope to avoid spring ice and snowstorms, and maybe more woodcocks will be around to put on the show that we were hoping you would get to see!

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