Preseason Bird Report

When you were a little kid, did you ever sneak up into the attic and check out the Christmas presents before Santa was scheduled to arrive?  Well for Tony and I Christmas usually comes in late June or early July when we go back in the woods to start training dogs.  The present we can hardly wait to open each year is the new wild bird crop here in Northern New Hampshire.  Well, today we sneaked up into the attic to take a peak.  The first place we went was down in Red Barn without dogs to check on the spots we had rototilled as feed plots for the woodcock.  We’ve had about 2.5 inches of rain since Saturday and the ground was quite moist where it had been tilled.  Much to our relief a number of spots showed signs of woodcock probing for worms.  There was one spot where a whole family must have been feeding as there were seven or eight splashes of woodcock droppings.  It was very encouraging and we plan to run Jack down through this cover next week.  In another section of the cover I walked up a brood of grouse.  Two chicks flushed into the bushes and could barely fly.  The hen flushed a little further on and flew across the path and then dropped down in the cover and made a heck of a racket as we moved on without trying to flush any more chicks but I’m sure they were there as the hen flushed quite a ways from the two chicks that flew.

Woodcock splash is pretty easy to recognize and there was
a bunch of it in this one tilled patch.

After our dog-less walk through the Red Barn we decided to air out some of the dogs.  Tony brought Frankie and Little Thuddy and I loaded up LJ and Trip then we headed up the road to the Dam cover.  This is a spot where the dogs can stretch out  and also find a few birds.  On our way in Trip stopped at the base of a small poplar covered hill and then moved on. Thuddy came in and went up the hill ahead of her and we heard at least three grouse flush.  One thing we discovered today was that there are some broods around that are just starting to fly and some others that must have been really early as they were about quail size and already starting to sprout some tail feathers.  After we left the dam we headed to another nearby cover that had a number of nesting woodcock in it early this spring.  Fortunately and unfortunately they had just finished doing some brontosaurus work in the alders so we decided to try another spot.

I really can’t give you the name of the next cover(s) and as you read on you’ll hopefully understand.  We turned LJ and Frankie loose and in the trail right by the trucks we found borings in the mud.  As we went down the trail we first moved a brood of grouse that were flying pretty good and I was able to count eight chicks before Frankie put the hen to flight and she went out low and slow drawing him away from her chicks.  Tony yelled whoa and gave him a little tap with the Tri-tronics and he stopped in the path.  Lj went in the cover ahead of him and I walked up a young woodcock as I went to LJ on point.  I brought LJ back out to the path on the lead and Tony still had Frankie styled up.  I snapped a picture of Frankie while Tony reminded LJ that he had to back.

Frankie standing in the path where the hen grouse had dumped into the cover.
LJ gets a little “Professional attention while backing  Frankie.

From there on it got kind of wild.  The dogs just kept finding grouse and woodcock.  We even cut the time in the cover short.  However, when we got back to the trucks we let the dogs cross the road into another piece of cover that we really had never been in and we were soon finding more grouse and more woodcock.  Most of the woodcock were in family groups and got up in bunches.  We also moved some single adult grouse (most likely males) and a couple more broods.  Both Tony and I were out of blanks before we ran out of birds.  The confirmed count of birds actually seen in the air or on the ground was 18 woodcock and 21 grouse.  So, now we’ll leave the rest of the presents for when we “officially” start training in about three weeks.
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