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Monday, March 19, 2007

More about woodcocks

(Photo credit - John Ascher)

I received the following e-mail yesterday from my friend Peter:

"Date: March 18, 2007 8:05:39 PM EDT
Subject: Woodcocks in Prospect Park

Apparently there was a mini fallout of woodcocks Saturday. Mike Zablocky saw three at Three Sisters Island, we saw four at lamppost J249, plus the ravine edible makes it at least 8. We'll never know the exact number.

A birding friend, John Lloyd, paints Prospect Lake scenery on the Peninsula with another artist friend. The snow kept both artists from their usual Peninsula spot so they moved all their equipment under the big ginkgos between the Wellhouse and the lamppost J249 spot. At about 4:30pm, a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk suddenly swooped down from out of nowhere barely missing the canvas that John's friend was painting. The hawk was pursuing .... guess what?... a sitting woodcock! The woodcock was behind the artists and it flew like crazy out of the woods and over the lake towards Three Sisters! The Red tailed didn't bother chasing.

It seems like woodcocks are prized delicacies for these red-taileds.


(Photo credit - Sarah T.)

Aldo Leopold wrote a wonderful essay called "Sky Dance". It's about the annual April spectacle of woodcock courtship. It can be found in a collection of his writings called "A Sand County Almanac". Here's an excerpt:

"Knowing the place and the hour, you seat yourself under a bush to the east of the dance floor and wait, watching against the sunset for the woodcock’s arrival. He flies in low from some neighboring thicket, alights on the bare moss, and at once begins the overture: a series of queer throaty peents spaced about two seconds apart, and sounding much like the summer call of the nighthawk.

Suddenly the peenting ceases and the bird flutters skyward in a series of wide spirals, emitting a musical twitter. Up and up he goes, the spirals steeper and smaller, the twittering louder and louder, until the performer is only a speck in the sky. Then, without warning, he tumbles like a crippled plane, giving voice in a soft liquid warble that a March bluebird might envy. At a few feet from the ground he levels off and returns to his peenting ground, usually to the exact spot where the performance began, and there resumes his peenting."

1 comment:

Brenda from Brooklyn said...

Years ago we went on a 'mud bat ramble' out at Jamaica Bay and saw them do their dance--it was funny,sort of pathetic in a way, and amazing. Will have to seek it out again so my daughter can witness it.

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