She’s Gone!

On March 20th, I drove up to this large field to listen for singing woodcock.  Just before 7:30 after the sun had set and it was close to full dark, first one male went peent, then another in a different location.  After listening for a few minutes, I moved about a half mile down the road that runs along the edge of the field and heard two or three other birds.  One was within a few yards of the truck just in the field.  As March and early April progressed we got lots of good work on these returning woodcock.  Once they started to nest we tried to stay away from them, but Frankie pointed one on a nest and we’ve been keeping track of her ever since.  As of Sunday she was still there.  We didn’t get a chance to check her again until this morning.

This large field is about 1/2 mile long and 300 yards wide at it’s
widest point.  A brook runs down the right side and a gravel road
on the left.  The house you can see at the end of the field is owned
by someone from away and is mostly uninhabited.  It obviously
serves as singing grounds and nesting cover.

 She’s gone and four eggshells remained.  There were a number of amazing things about this experience.  First was the site of the nest.  As you can see from the second picture below the nest was right on the edge of the field with heavy cover behind it where I assume she has gone with her chicks.  The scientific literature says that the chicks will be able to fly short distances in two weeks and will be almost fully grown in about a month.  Even though the woodcock chicks will be flying a month from now, we won’t be back in the woods for a few more weeks after that to give the grouse time to hatch and also be flying when we loose the “hounds.”

The four eggshells were all within a couple of inches of the
nest.  I put them back in for the picture.
The area around this field contains all types of cover including some that has been managed specifically for grouse and woodcock.  Not far away from this nest site are parcels that contain everything from alder jungle to recent clearcuts to mature stands of both hardwood and softwood trees.  In addition to this hen we think there were at three other hens that we found and there were probably more.  If each hen hatches out four chicks there will be plenty of birds around this summer.  The big problem for us is how the cover will change in the next month as everything leafs out.  
The woodcock nest is just to the left of this small tree.  Standing next
to it you have an unobstructed view down to the field.  A picture of
her on the nest is in an earlier post.
I addition to the obvious camouflage of the birds the mottled and muted colors of the egg make them equally hard to see.  The fact that woodcock only lay four eggs where grouse may lay a dozen or more probably accounts for the fact that the swings in woodcock numbers is not as volatile as grouse.
I brought the eggshells home to get this close-up.  The literature
states that woodcock are the only bird that split their eggs the
long way.
Posted in Current News.

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