03/22/22 – American Woodcocks

Last spring, Ralphie and I were wandering the back paths. Nothing on our minds, just a chance to connect with the quiet after a long day. We noticed a brown fluff on the ground and as we approached we saw a unique-looking bird, with large black eyes and a long beak. We didn’t know what this poor deceased bird was called, but we did know that it was one that didn’t frequent the feeders.

Using Google Lens we discovered it was an American Woodcock. We opened up Youtube videos to watch their “come-mate-with-me dance”, read about them on Cornell’s Ornithology app, and listened to their varied calls. As soon as I heard the call, I knew that was a sound I couldn’t quite place for the past month. It’s a short, yet loud and far-traveling “tzt”. When Woodcocks fly, they spiral, their wings making their own noise. On the ground, they have their own version of moonwalk dancing. It’s hard not to think of them as a favorite bird (don’t tell the Red-winged Blackbirds and Tufted Titmice).

We spent the remaining months of spring listening and trying to see one up close, but only ever saw them fly. We sat for hours watching and listening and hoping.

As the weeks passed, we knew that our time was waning. They migrate south around May and one night Ralphie said, “I think I should say good-bye to ‘Tzt,'” the name Ralphie gave our new friend. So we did. We waved and told the bird to have a safe trip south and hoped to see them in 2022. Strangely enough, it was the last night we heard their call. And so we waited.

Yesterday, while I was puttering around outside near dusk, I heard the distant “tzt”. Were my ears playing tricks on me? I dropped everything, ran to the sliding glass door and yelled, “Ralphie! Ralphie! Ralphie! come here! Quick!” Like he already knew, he squealed, “Tzt’s back??!?!?” Palpable excitement circled us.

We sat on the back patio in our lawn chair, looked past the barn and the field and waited to hear the return of our new springtime tradition.

American Woodcock Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Credit: Dave Small/USFWS volunteer

8 thoughts on “03/22/22 – American Woodcocks

  1. What an interesting bird. I’m just getting into birds, so this fascinates me! So exciting that you have another one to listen to and hopefully see this year. Also, very jealous of your back paths. I bet that is super relaxing after a long day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a charmer if a post. You bring your reader along with the discoveries you and Ralphie make, and as you learn more about woodcocks. Your paragraph with dialogue is so strong, I wonder if you might add some dialogue to other paragraphs.

    Liked by 1 person

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