The picture above is of my house. It sits at the top of an old hay field surrounded by various stages of woodland cover that includes over 200 apple trees both original orchard and volunteers. The last time we ran a dog, just on the bottom 20 acres or so of the 100 acre property, she had four finds – 3 woodcock and a grouse. That was back in early April and we haven’t run a dog on the property since. Another time, Katie and I just walked our 45 minute training loop without a dog and flushed 5 grouse. We had at least three male woodcock we could hear singing in late March and early April just by standing out on the porch. All of this has been reported in early blogs and I’m just giving you the recap here. I’m not doing it to make you all jealous – although that’s a real bonus – I’m telling you this so you’ll better appreciate the rest of today’s story.
It’s 80 paces from the spot I was standing this afternoon when I took this picture to the door into the porch. Every night, if I remember to go out at the right time, there has been a woodcock singing right there. Last night when I let the dogs back in, I stayed outside and walked down the hill to just beyond that big rock you can see in the foreground. I could see the woodcock on the ground and hear his distinctive peent, peent, peent. Then I’d hear his wings whistle and although it was to dark to see him, I could track his flight as he flew to my left, circled around the opening which took him over the house and garage and then back to where he would once again start peenting. It was pretty darn cool. But I had to wonder what the heck he’s doing since many of the woodcock clutches have hatched out or will be shortly and the successful hens will stay with their chicks for 4 or 5 weeks and do not raise a second clutch. THey instead spend the rest of the summer fattening back up for their trip south. So, I did a little research and this is the best conclusion that I can come up with.
According to the literature, 75% of all woodcock nesting are successful at hatching out their eggs. If a hen loses her whole clutch of eggs or chicks or to predation or the elements and she is healthy enough to lay more eggs, she will re-nest. So, my little guy on the lawn who is still singing and flying his courtship flights is an optimist. He’s hoping that some of those 25% of unsuccessful hens are in his territory and will come back for more bird sex. Personally, I hope they were all successful the first time around, but I’m glad he’s still out their advertising his services in case he’s needed. The literature talks about some males maintaining their singing until almost the end of May. I’ll keep track of this little optimist and let you know.