A Surprise in the Net!

Finding a Sharp-shinned Hawk in the net was certainly thrilling.  But when you consider what Sharpies eat, it wasn’t really a surprise…  Last Saturday, I was truly surprised by this bird.  See if you recognize it:

Do you know who I am?

An American Woodcock!  Whoa!  Never expected that!

American Woodcocks, also known as Timberdoodles, are probably most well-known for their springtime courting dance.  Monarch wrote about it and included a video (dark – but cool because you can hear the sounds).  Click here to see (hear) it.  And if you have a copy of Aldo Leopold’s book A Sand County Almanac, read the essay on Woodcocks… it’s brilliant!

The Woodcock is a strange bird.  You’ll find it with the sandpipers in your field guide.  But you’ll have to go to the woods, not the beach, to find it outside.  It’s beak is long and flexible.  In the following photo, J had pried the bill open a bit to try to get a peek at the “teeth” and tongue.

Woodcock - Interesting Beak

I wish I had gotten a picture of what happened next!  When J removed his fingers, the upper bill curved, then straightened!  Woodcocks poke in the dirt with these long flexible bills probing for earthworms.  Their ability to manipulate the end of the bill undoubtedly helps in extracting tasty treats from deep in the soil.

The coloring of a Woodcock makes them excellent at hiding on the forest floor.  Many hikers have been startled when one suddenly rises just where a hiking boot was about to tread.

Woodcock - Camouflage coloring!

This was a big bird and a strong flier.  Tom and J had to work together to band it.  First they had to determine the appropriate size band by using a leg gauge.

Getting Ready to use Leg Gauge on Woodcock

Leg Gauge on Woodcock

Bird PaparazziOnce banded, the poor thing had to endure the Bird Paparozzi.  I’ll bet nearly a hundred photos were taken, many of them by me!

 

 

Then Tom let me release it.  He took my camera and shot this series:

About to Release the Woodcock

Release 1

Release 2

Release 3

Release 4

Release 5

Good-bye, Woodcock.  Live long and prosper!

Learn more:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/American_Woodcock_dtl.html