Date: 3/11/17 10:33 am From: Robert Evans <benbovas...> Subject: [Ohio-birds] Woodcock, Muskingum Co. - quantitative and qualitative observations
Some observations and musings:
I am leaving for a week and a half of business in California on Monday. This means I will miss a period of impending spring here on the farm on Flint Ridge, western Muskingum County.
Last night the moon was nearly full. I finished up taking care of the sheep, horses and goat about 6:45. It was a lovely sunset. The temperature was 30F and a brisk breeze was blowing, setting the tube feeders to pendulate, but I decided to hike out to the back forty to check out the woodcocks again, because it might be my last chance this "Spring." Jane arrived home from her Zanesville art studio just as I was leaving. Her first comment was, "It's cold." I asked if she wanted to join me. She smiled knowingly, and said, "That's OK. Go enjoy yourself."
I hike the quarter mile up the hill and out the tributary ridge to our campfire and picnic table site, where I have a small shed with some supplies. I grabbed a folding lawn/camp chair for my observations, planning to give my arthritic knees a break (standing in the cold and all...)
As I arrived at the shed I could hear a woodcock peenting exuberantly from the successional field beyond, just as I had on March 5th. But this time the calls seems quite rapid-fire, maybe more so than I have ever heard. I wondered if this signaled a greater urgency, do to either the presence of a female, or perhaps the colder temperatures. I sat down at the top of the trail that slightly descends from the clearing, and listened through the familiar cycle: peenting, followed by the whistling wings of ascent and descent. A couple times I managed to catch a glimpse of the bird as he circled the sky. When he landed in the weeds, as expected, he resumed his peenting. Because it was so rapid-fire, in my opinion, I decided to actually quantify the rate. I took out my iPhone and used the stopwatch function, tallying 45.8 seconds for 20 peents, a rate of one every two and a quarter seconds.
Has anyone had similar data or experience? I haven't researched this at all, I'm just asking.
When the bird took flight again I walked down the trail a short distance to a spot I thought was close to his previous landing. I have done this before, in previous years. Once I was so lucky than a woodcock landed only a few feet from me, on the mowed trailed, and I was able to actually watch a peenting woodcock in the moonlight, an experience I will never forget. It was not so this time, but when when he landed I would guess he was about 25 feet away.
This time the peenting was not quite as frantic, perhaps because he was aware that the scene had changed, and a large inquisitive primate was sitting on a chair in the trail. The wind was cold, I opted to keep my gloves on and my phone in my pocket. I wanted to remain as unobtrusive as possible. So I just sat there drinking the beauty of the dimming sunset, Orion brightening, the calls of the bird of my interest, and the overall tranquility of the whole setting.
I sat there chilling (figuratively and literally) through another two woodcock cycles, just a short time really, but so fulfilling. Then I ascended back up the trail, put the chair away, and walked across the windy pasture back to the house. I know I was smiling in the moonlight.
Life is good. This is why we bird.
Bob Evans Geologist, etc. Hopewell Township, Muskingum County
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