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When you were a child, what did you look forward to the most about summer? Was it the end of classes; the warm weather; getting to sleep in? For me, summer meant summer camp! It is a major part of the summer experience… Continue reading
Once common throughout the eastern United States, the numbers of the American Woodcock, (Philhela minor) have declined since the 1960's. Habitat loss has taken its toll to where it is estimated that perhaps 20% of the population that existed during the 1940's exist today. The Timberdoodle, aka Whistledoodle, Wude-cucu migrates through and into our area during the spring and fall. Some of them will stay here breeding and nesting if the right habitat is available.
The arrival of the birds is commonly known as a "Fall of Woodcock!" Typically they move ahead of the frost and Arctic blast in the autumn and behind winter's wrath in the spring. The Woodcock's feeding habits make it necessary for them to follow this flight plan. Their long beaks have adapted for probing into soft moist earth for the earthworms that make up about 90% of the birds' diet. Near the tip of the bill you would notice the hinge that makes it possible for the bird to grasp its prey and pull it out of the ground which is impossible if the ground is still frozen. The holes produced in the soil by this feeding activity are a good indication to the alert naturalist that a fall of Woodcock has arrived. Whitewash or droppings produced by the birds are also key indicators. Birds accidentally flushed will fly straight up through the cover like small helicopters. After reaching the desired height they will level off and zip away twisting and turning depending on the forest understory. This will all happen very quickly and be accompanied by a twittering or a piping trill-like sound. It is not uncommon for another bird or two to flush in unison or shortly thereafter.