Tonight the woodcock began displaying while it was still light enough to record video. Typically, woodcock will begin displaying about 15 minutes after sunset. Tonight’s sunset took place at 7:15 and the video began at 7:40. At this point the woodcock had been active for several minutes. At least here in New Jersey, woodcock are typically active for about 30 minutes. There is the occasional bird that will go longer, but it’s very rare for there to be any active as the first hour after sunset ends.
This is not BBC Planet Earth. This is unedited footage on a pretty active night. However, I am providing timestamps for your convenience.
— Kathleen Farley (@WoodcockWatchNJ) March 25, 2018
0:01 The high pitched twittery sound is the sound of the courtship flight. When a woodcock does its display, the males will separate out their three outermost feathers on each wing. The narrower feathers will let the air rush over them, producing that sound.
0:04 A second woodcock peents in the distance, down hill.
0:15 A much closer woodcock calls from just up the path. The lighting is too dark to see in on the screen, but on site, you could see the bird sitting on the path. As he would prepare to peent, he would stand taller, puff out his feathers and then “PEENT”. Looked quite…. cocky.
0:23 The close woodcock rises up and flies away.
0:30 You can see the volunteer who is busy doing the sciency data collection of the night. She’s in the process of noting the behavior and behavior changes of every bird present on site.
0:31 At this point you can hear at least two woodcock calling. One is slightly more distant.
0:37 There’s at a third woodcock that is performing a courtship display in the sky. (not pictured).
0:44 We can now hear a cackling call. That cackle is an aggressive sound used by males. They will either buzz by the singing ground of another male or issue it while chasing a male away.
0:46 That’s one loud plane. While we do frequently get air traffic, they don’t sound that loud in person! Usually.
0:50 [Beginning to move down hill.]
0:53 You can hear a second aggressive cackle and at least one bird peenting.
0:57 [Moving back up hill again.]
1:00 That’s one very close woodcock peenting!
1:00 Let’s try to sneak closer.
1:03 And at least 2 slightly further away.
1:16 The woodcock rises up and flies overhead. [Scanning to follow bird flying away]
1:23 [Trying to figure out what to focus on next with the video….]
1:35 Another woodcock passes overhead leaving the field. We think it’s heading to the fields on the other side of the street, across from the houses seen on the screen.
1:52 Decide to take the plunge and venture into the vegetation after the bird that’s peenting just uphill. Despite the lack of visibility on screen, the vegetation was still relatively visible. And yeah, it was about that crunchy sounding when moving through it.
2:32 Woodcock continues to peent.
2:45 Did the woodcock stop or move?
2:59 Distant peents. Down hill. One, probably two birds based on how frequently its beeing made.
3:09 You can see the taller tree branches and possibly some mist net poles, silhouetted against the darkening sky.
3:10 You can hear a faint courtship.
3:21 You can hear one note of the courtship. Possibly.
3:36 A peent from the hill side! Slightly higher up the slope. Onward!
4:09 Decide to end video. It’s dark enough video quality is likely low and it should be dark enough to open nets. (We want them to be less visible).
So with all the moving up and down the hill, as well as crunching through the vegetation, it’s hard to determine exactly, but we had 4-5 birds recorded. Over the course of the evening, we had at least 7 active male woodcock. For this location and this date, this is a very active night!