Monday, April 11, 2011

Woodcock Romance

A couple of evenings ago I heard my first 'Peent' of the season. That's not to say that it was the first of the season, but it was the first I heard. Well after sunset, as the twilight gathers in the early Spring, even while there is still significant snow on the ground, you can hear this persistent penetrating, rasping with some high pitches puncturing through the rasp - 'peent'. While it is making this sound the Woodcock is slowly walking around a little clearing in the tall grasses or alders somewhere near a stream with its body gently bobbing as it makes each 'peent'. It looks like a little wind up toy. It is also very hard to see and you have to be still and very observant. Fortunately, the animal is not too shy and allows a quite close approach, if you exercise a modicum of caution. But this is not the interesting part.
After a short time marching around 'peenting', the bird launches itself pretty much straight up in the air like an overgrown grasshopper, or a small fluttering helicopter with its rotors not exactly balanced. It goes up pretty much out of sight to all but the keenest eye on the clearest evening making quite a sound as it does so. Then in a few moments you hear the actual mating song and then the bird will drop in a zig-zag fluttering manner like a falling leaf and land on the ground right next to where it took off. If you are really careful, you can sort of sneak up on the launching and landing place and wind up with the bird almost landing on top of you in its return flight. Here is a sound recording of the whole performance. And here is a youtube of the flight under the lighting conditions that you might encounter.

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