Sunday, February 24, 2013

Schenck Forest before Dawn

I have been wanting to put American Woodcock on my life list for a while.  Unfortunately, they are easiest to find in the dark.  In the winter months, male woodcocks (odd-looking shorebirds that reside in the woods) try to find a mate, and "peent", or call, to the females.  These birds blend so well into the forest floor that it is nearly impossible to find them unless they are calling. (Call available here)

With this in mind, my dad and I pulled into Schenck Forest in Raleigh (NCSU land) at 6:20 AM.  As soon as we stepped out of my dad's pickup, we were greeted by the deep hooting of a Great Horned Owl.  Year bird #139, check, and my second owl species this week (the other was a Eastern Screech-Owl at Harris Lake).  A few minutes later, as the first hints of sunrise appeared on the horizon, we heard it: the Woodcock.  It was calling from only about 200 feet away, in an open pine forest.

After trying to spot the "timberdoodle" (and failing to do so - no surprise there!), we moved on. The fields revealed about a dozen bluebirds, a shrike, and several Eastern Meadowlarks, but nothing too unusual.  Pine warblers called from the trees, and an American Kestrel sat on a wire, and I finished up the count.

Seven lifers in one week - not bad.  In the Outer Banks last weekend, I spotted five: an Orange-crowned Warbler, two Merlin, 140 American Avocets, several Snow Buntings and a Lesser Black-backed Gull.   The Screech Owl responding to a recording was six, and the Woodcock today rounded out the list.