Saturday, March 20, 2010

Woodcocks galore

I attended the Urbana (Illinois) Park District's "Woodcock Walk" Wednesday evening in Meadowbrook Park.

I also did a preview walk on Tuesday evening. There was still some light left in the western sky, so it was possible to watch the woodcocks begin their display flights at 7:28PM, silhouetted against the pale baby-blue sky. For a few short minutes there was enough background light to discern the blur of the woodcocks' wings as they climbed up into the sky, looking for love.

After the Tuesday night woodcock show I started to head home in the dark from the southeast corner of Meadowbrook Park. A lone coyote howled nearby, just across the eastern fence, on the other side of a tall row of evergreens. It was the loudest and most deeply pitched coyote howl I've ever heard. The sound was almost wolfish. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Needless to say, it also quickened my step. :-)

There was a good turnout for the Wednesday "Woodcock Walk" event, co-sponsored by the Champaign County Audubon Society (CCAS).

There were at least 25-30 people present for the walk. There were also a few other groups of people operating independently, also looking for woodcocks, including one group with a powerful flashlight that illuminated a flying woodcock at least one time.

At one point early in the evening I broke ranks with the UPD/CCAS group and went with my gut instinct, heading towards the southeast corner of Meadowbrook Park...the area that worked for me on Tuesday night. I wasn't disappointed.

I ran into two nice young women who said they'd had good luck, so I stuck with them. There were woodcocks displaying all around us. While the birds had started their "peent" calls a little earlier than on Tuesday night, interestingly enough they started the display flights at the exact same time Wednesday (7:28PM) as Tuesday night.

And I had a personal life birding first tonight! I actually SAW a woodcock on the ground doing its "peent" call!! This happened on several occasions this evening. The first time, the bird was only about 50 feet away on a wide mowed path, and there was still enough light for a really good view through my new Nikon ATB binoculars. Very interesting sight (and kinda comical)! I've forgotten the names of the two young women there, but many thanks for pointing this bird out to me.

A final highlight. On Wednesday night, while looking to the sky trying to follow woodcock display flights, I saw what looked like a really odd airplane flying high overhead, reflecting the late evening sunlight. I learned the next day that it was actually the International Space Station. Cool!

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