Woodcock Walk

By Lena Moser

On Sunday, April 15, three young birders braved the icy roads and cold weather to join MYBC in the search for the American Woodcock, also amusingly known as the "timberdoodle" or "bog sucker."  Lucky for us, we struck gold!  Shortly after sunset, we arrived at a field in Kennebunkport, where we were greeted by a couple of recent arrivals: Hermit Thrush and Eastern Phoebe.  We walked out onto the frozen field, which was coated in a crunchy layer of ice, stood still, and listened for the distinctive, nasal "peent!" of the woodcock. 

In a few minutes, we heard one off in the distance, followed by another one closer by.  As the air grew darker around us, we heard the woodcock twittering high overhead as he performed his elaborate flight display.  While he frolicked high above, we took this chance to approach his display turf by quickly jogging our way closer.  Standing still under a large white pine, we held our breaths in the hope that he would land back on his favorite patch of field again. 

The woodcock did not disappoint.  He descended, loudly chirping, and landed about 20 feet in front of us!  Lena spotlighted him, and everyone got great looks through binoculars at the plump, peenting bird.  The next time he shot off into the sky, we set up the scope and got in line, ready for better looks.  Again, the male woodcock landed back on his favorite piece of earth, and Seth trained the scope on him as Lena kept the bird in the spotlight.  One by one, each young birder got to relish incredible looks of this unique bird and admire his fabulous brown-mottled camouflage.  Needless to say, we were all made very happy!

Prior to our woodcock outing, we enjoyed a pizza dinner and dessert a la Anna.  (Anna baked us cupcakes and served them with berry frosting and blackberries on top.  YUM!  Thank you so much, Anna, for the delicious treats!)  After dinner, we tested our birding know-how with The Great North American Bird Watching Trivia Game.  Some questions were very challenging and sure stumped us, but we certainly learned more about birds in the process.  We also played Bird Bingo and enjoyed learning about various birds outside the US, such as the Shoebill, Blue Coua, and Superb Lyrebird.  We watched a great David Attenborough video about the latter and were highly amused by the lyrebird's ability to mimic camera clicks and chainsaws.  Anna also told us about the lyre in Greek mythology... about how Hermes invented this instrument from a turtle's shell and later gave it to Apollo.  So yes - everyone went away with more knowledge and good entertainment this evening.

One last bird highlight of note: just before sunset, at around 6:45 pm, Brendan yelled out, "Great Blue Herons!"  We all looked out the window, and to our great surprise, we saw 18 Great Blue Herons rise up out of the marsh from behind the UNE soccer field along Hills Beach Road.  The herons proceeded to soar around in one giant flock like vultures!  It was an amazing sight... Lena and Seth said that they had seen lots of Great Blue Herons at rookeries before but never in a soaring flock like that, so it was very cool.  Perhaps this was a group of migrants returning together?  It was certainly odd to see them all soaring in a large flock up in the sky like that.  We will now need to look into the migratory behaviors of Great Blue Herons to learn more.  Nice spotting, Brendan!