Mon. Feb. 24, 2020

The Timberdoodle trek field trip, which has traditionally been well-attended, has been canceled as a formal scheduled field trip given the ongoing recommendation to avoid all non-essential gatherings. Woodcocks are present in many local natural areas and can be found and enjoyed without gathering a group in a single time and place. Sunday’s forecast with a chance of rain/snow is less than ideal in any case. However, CAS encourages its members to enjoy birding and other spring natural phenomena on their own as an important mental health tool in this stressful time. If you join or encounter other birders, please maintain an appropriate distance.

Here are some tips for viewing woodcocks on your own:

Pick a location to visit. Here are a few with reports from this year:

  • Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary
  • Forum Nature Area
  • Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area
  • Gans Creek Recreation Area
  • Blackbird roost site on Dunbar Lane (which still is putting on an impressive blackbird show as of 3/17)

Visit the site around dusk. Listen for “peenting” in an area of open ground, though often not far removed from brush/woods:

Aldo Leopold’s eloquent description of the woodcock display in A Sand County Almanac, excerpted here, is well worth reading and provides an idea of what will happen next.

Peak woodcock-display activity tends to occur in March, though we have seen woodcocks displaying as late as early May at Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area.

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Original field trip notice (now CANCELED):

Early spring is the time to enjoy the fascinating twilight mating displays of the American Woodcock (a.k.a Timberdoodle). We’ll walk out into the southern grasslands at Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area to (hopefully) enjoy this annual treat while experiencing whatever other evening bird activity develops. Meet at the end-of-road parking lot south of the lake at 6:45 p.m.; sunset on the trip date is at 7:23. Total walking distance will be ~1–1.5 miles roundtrip on a mostly flat gravel road.

Contact trip leader Eric Reuter with any questions.

As described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,

American Woodcock spend most of their time hidden in fields and on the forest floor, where they probe for earthworms. They often rock back and forth while walking along the ground. On spring nights, males perform very conspicuous displays, giving a buzzy peent call, then launching into the air. Their erratic display flight includes a distinctive, twittering flight sound and ends with a steep dive back to the ground.