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Easter Woodcock Welcomes Spring!

American Woodcock welcomes springWinter is persistent! March 2018 came and went as a lion.

We woke to frost goblins and tonight there will be more snow. But this day announced itself with sunshine that soon after revealed a secret.

Life-listing birder

Thirty years ago I was a novice birder with a growing list. At that time I lived and worked in Miami with Everglades at the backdoor. One evening a friend invited me there to watch the aerial ballet of the American Woodcock, a chubby little guy determined to impress the ladies with his circling, diving courtship, declaring intentions on whistling wings. My logbook shows him as my 201st life bird and I’ve seen only a handful of others in more than three decades until . . . .

American Woodcock, Scolopax minor

Fast forward to Easter Sunday 2018 and an urgent call to come see who was snacking in the creek below our springbox. The American Woodcock is not rare in the eastern United States though this is the first one I’ve seen in decades; it is a secretive bird, skulking around in damp underbrush from dusk to dawn.

Woodcock with a stylish coat and a big head

This bird has huge eyes placed high in a big head—the better to see me with. They’re strongly marked with bars, stripes, and dots above a soft cinnamon, buff-colored belly. The feet are pink and the bill is long and thin, perfect to probe the soft stream bed where slugs, worms, and snails hide. Scolopax minor walks with a constant rocking motion which distinguishes it from its cousin, the Snipe.

Eye-to-eye, one species to another

All of these behaviors were on vivid display while I sat watching from the grass. He saw me there, big eyes staring straight into mine, then returned to his hunt. I watched as his day ended and mine began, relishing the sunshine, thankful that it’s strengthening each day. To him and to all of you, Happy Easter, welcome spring!

 

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