Saturday evening, daughter and I went timberdoodling at Shades State Park with the Friends of Turkey Run and Shades State Park. We met at the shelter near the entrance to the park and then walked with the group to the site where the American Woodcock would hopefully perform its amazing spring dance.
Alan Bruner, birder extraordinaire and leader of the hike, told us that the woodcock is a very camouflaged bird and is a wooded wetland bird, but comes out in the open short grass area to dance his dance.
The courtship dance begins with the male calling numerous “peents” from the ground, facing all directions of the compass to maximize his range. Then he flies straight up into the air with a whistling sound which is caused by the airflow through his feathers. When he is almost out of sight, he then starts his descent, making another whistling sound – again caused by wind through his feathers – and then back on the ground and more “peents.”
We started hearing the calls while we still had light enough to see. I have no idea how many birds we actually saw or heard, but it seemed like several.
It sometimes swooped right by our party of about a dozen people and would land maybe 15 feet in front of us. We all had very good views of the bird both when it was flying and when it was “peenting” on the grass beside us. This was a really incredible evening as we watched them fly up and down and call its spring courtship call.
The sunset was exceptionally beautiful and a wonderful ending to a beautiful spring – like day.