DIY Woodcock Walk
In the Northeast, one of the first signs of spring is the appearance of the American Woodcock—a curiously entertaining bird that provides many opportunities to reflect on how culture, conservation, biodiversity, habitat and climate are connected.
Celebrate Earth Day with an outing for friends or family to observe the woodcock’s amazing spring courtship display, and learn a bit about this bird and its natural history.
1. PIck a Time And Date.
Plan your outing for an early evening between Mach 15 to April 30 for the best chance at observing these birds. Ideally a night with a bright moon for the best viewing. Woodcocks stay hidden most of the day—you’ll want to plan your outing to start just before dusk so you can find a good patch.
2. Pack a Flashlight.
A red- or green-light flashlight is easier on nocturnal wildlife and will help get around after it gets dark.Try not to use it unless you need it. Pack some supper and bring something to sit on. Talk softly!
3. Choose Your Spot.
In Cambridge, you're most likely to find woodcocks at Lusitania Field near Fresh Pond or at Alewife Reservation. You can also find woodcocks at Magazine Beach and Danehy Park, but these locations are less reliable.
Further afield in Belmont, Rock Meadow is a fantastic place to find woodcocks, as are the fields at Habitat. Arlington’s Great Meadow, the Fells, and Arlington Reservation.
4. LISTEN FOR THE PEENT!
Look for a spot with an open field that has thick bushy edges and listen carefully for a peent. You can play a recording here of peening here. It is a funny nasal sound that seems like it could have been a sound effect from a children’s cartoon or a frog.
5. Sit Back and Enjoy the Show!
As the peenting gets louder and faster, keep your ears open for a different whirring sound and look up. Pick a night with a bright moon or you might not be able to see it. But even if you can’t see these birds, you can still hear it and it is no less impressive.
Woodcock usually start and finish their display in the same place, so if you’re likely you might see one right after it lands. The birds will do their dance repeatedly well into the night. If you are in a big field, you may have several displaying woodcocks to observe.