Monday, March 12, 2012

Woodcock Return

When we walked with Kodi on our usual 6:00 am morning outing it was still a little dark, due to the time change yesterday. The sunrise was now an hour later. This was to great effect as the first sound I heard in the early morning darkness was the distant peenting of a woodcock--the first of the year. Without the time change, it would have been too light by 6:00 am and the woodcock would have stopped their mating rituals for the day, before resuming again at dusk.

I checked my blog posts from past years and this is the week the woodcock arrive in our neighborhood. Usually toward the later part of the week; this year they are early as is the spring weather.

This morning we walked down Bald Hill Road a bit, then into the Mitchell field now that it is free of snow, if a bit damp. The field is rolling and we like to climb the short rise to the top. We stood quietly, while Kodi sniffed clumps of little bluestem. We heard a couple woodcock peenting from the lower edge of the field, where it dips down to a brushy edge. I gazed east toward the salmon-colored skyline and caught a glimpse of one woodcock in the midst of its "sky dance," twittering as it flew up in a wide spiral, before swooping back down to its peenting spot at the field edge.

Later in the morning, around 10 o'clock, I was ready for a break from work. Something also caught my ear just then--a bluebird was singing nearby. And there it was in the morning sunlight perched on our deck and singing to its mate. I stepped outside onto the deck and heard a chorus of birds. More chirps and chucks than actual songs. I think the birds were chatting with their mates about potential nest sites or perhaps a good food source. The resident birds start their nest search much earlier than migrants, locating the best sites in the crotch of a tree or a suitable cavity depending on their preferences. And with the trees still bare it is fun to watch them check out the options. Pairs of robins, nuthatches, tufted titmice, and downy woodpeckers were all busy in our yard at mid-morning.

It bears repeating that early spring is one of the sweetest times to step outside for a walkabout in the neighborhood. The birds are full of energy, the soil is active with new growth, buds are just starting to swell and open. You might want to step out soon to enjoy the early spring, as summer may just come a little sooner than we want (the temperature reached nearly 70F today).

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