Puck and I finally found some time to get out and chase some woodcock. The birds have been back in the area for a several weeks now, and finding a few them always marks the start of spring for me — even if it was in the freezing all weekend.
Puck is eleven now. We’ve spent ten hunting seasons together. It amazes me how well she did today. Her passion for the chase, and her drive in the field, are still thrilling to watch.
Woodcock crack me up. They’re such odd little birds, so determined in their ways, so accommodating to me and my dog, always easy to find, and always a joy to see. They’ll be back in my coverts in a few weeks and Puck and I will be happy to see them. These videos show a couple of males “peenting” out their mating call.
Go here to learn more about woodcock and listen to some audio of them.
Woodcock fascinate me. Each year, these softball-sized creatures migrate thousands of miles back and forth between their summer & winter grounds. They’re arrival in April marks the beginning of my spring and watching them come through in the fall is one of the high points of my year.
Here in the US, we hunt the American Woodcock (Scolopax minor). Over in Europe they have a similar bird, but while their Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) looks almost identical to our timberdoodles, the Euro Woodcock is about 1/3 larger than our birds.
Along with a larger size, it looks like the Euro Woodcocks also have a wider migration pattern. At least that’s prelimary results from the UK’s Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Woodcock Watch are indicating. This project has affixed satellite tracking devices to several birds, and the information that the devices are sending back is pretty amazing. One woodcock, code named Monkey (MO on the map below), has travelled 4400 miles since the project began.
Considering that the continental US is about 2,8oo miles wide, and that Monkey will be repeating this trip in the fall, that’s some serious traveling. It’s also one more reason to have a tremendous amount of respect for all kinds of woodcock.
BTW: you can support the Woodcock Watch for about $50. Considering the value of the research their gathering, it seems like a pretty good deal.
I’ve read Guy De La Valdene’s book Making Game last week and I’m going to share a few quotes here of the next few days. If you enjoy them, I suggest reading the entire book. It’s well worth it.
“The Seneca Indians believed that the Creator made the woodcock from the leftover parts of every other bird. If that is true, his heart must be that of an eagle, for it is big and filled with the unique courage required to wander in solitude through the mysterious forests of his continent.” pg. 29
The woodcock are officially back in Maine. Puck pointed our first one of 2012 yesterday. I thought we would find more of them, but they just weren’t around. It is a little early, though. Puck also pointed a grouse. Overall, it was nice day. Enjoy the pics.