Dave and I had just come back from a nice evening walk. I stayed out to fill the bird feeders and then to spy on a tree that I think MIGHT be hosting a Barred Owl nest (this is not yet confirmed), and then I heard it - the unmistakable twitter of an American Woodcock descending from its aerial display high in the air. I ran inside to tell Dave (I probably shouted it, actually, because I was so excited): "You gotta get out here - there's Woodcocks!!!" The funny thing is, we had just been talking about Woodcocks during our walk, wondering if there is any suitable habitat for them around where we live, and it turns it they are just up the hill from us!
For those of you in the audience who aren't birders, the "peent" referred to in the title of this post is one of the characteristic sounds the male Woodcock makes during his mating display. Quoting from Cornell University's All About Birds site:
"The male American Woodcock has an elaborate display to attract females. He gives repeated "peents" on the ground, often on remaining patches of snow in the early spring. After a time he flies upward in a wide spiral. As he gets higher, his wings start to twitter. After reaching a height of 70-100 m (230-328 ft) the twittering becomes intermittent, and the bird starts chirping as he starts to descend. He comes down in a zig-zag, diving fashion, chirping as he goes. As he comes near the ground he silently lands, near a female if she is present. Then he starts peenting again."We contacted our neighbor whose property the birds were actually on, and some evening soon we're going to go up there and observe them more closely. One of them flew overhead this evening, looking like an over-sized bat, but that was the only view we got. Hopefully we'll be able to get some better views up on the mating grounds.
P.S. One thing I forgot to mention when I originally put this post up: I sat outside for a little while longer after all the peenting stopped, and I could hear the earthworms and other creepy crawlies moving around under and among the leaf litter. At least I know there is plenty of food available for the Woodcocks. As to hearing the sound of the soil moving... that only creeped me out a little...