Date: 2/21/18 5:01 am
From: Pj via va-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: [Va-bird] Woodcocks Huntley Meadows
The weather was too nice to pass up an early season walk to the meadows at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria on Tuesday, 2/20, to check out any Woodcock activity. The meadows along the hike-bike trail have not been cleared this year, thus the only open areas are the cleared roads that give access to the meadows. For the last few years most if not all Woodcock activity has been in the cleared road areas so this is probably a non issue.

On my way out to the main woodcock meadow - located about .75 miles down the paved trail - I walked through the first "Bluebird" meadow, located on the left as one comes out of the forest. The trail was clear and remarkably dry considering the recent rains. It was still too early for any activity and I did not hang around to see if there were any Woodcock displaying.
Once at the main Woodcock meadow I planted myself at a crossroad near the west end of the meadow. (This area used to be separated into two meadows - the main Woodcock meadow (east) and the "back" meadow (west). Now it has been cleared out to form one large meadow. ) Again the trails are easy walking but may have a few wet spots, appropriate foot wear recommended.
It was a cloudless sunny afternoon and the sun set at 5:52 pm. The first "peent" came at 6:13 pm, and it was on the edge of the forest where the first entrance to the main meadow emerges from the forest. This first individual called maybe a half dozen times and then fell silent. The next two individuals who came out to "peent" were located on the south side of the meadow, presumably in a cleared area at the forest edge. They also only "peented" a few times before falling silent. None of the three Woodcocks who" peented" did any sort of display flying. There were, however, a couple of low flights where the individuals make the low chattering calls, sometimes associated with aggressiveness toward another male.
In conclusion, a beautiful evening for a walk to the meadows. 3 Woodcock came out to briefly "peent", did not take to any areal displays, and fell silent after about 15 minutes (6:28 pm). Still early but activity should pick up rapidly over the next couple of weeks.
Huntley Meadows Park sponsors Woodcock Walks on the next 5 Saturday evenings starting on 2-24. Check their website for more info.

PJ Dunn
Alexandria, Va.
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