enjoying the stream in the morning light
The day after the big March storm, people noticed a huge fallout of American Woodcock (fondly called "Timberdoodles") in the city. (A "fallout" is when a lot of migrants descend on a place all of a sudden; usually because they;re forced by the weather.) The first #birdcp tweets came from the north end of Central Park, the Loch and Ravine area. Four woodcock...no, six woodcocks, um eight, no, make that twelve... Then the first report from the Ramble, two in the stream on the Point.
So I slogged into the Ramble on the way home from work. Didn't find the ones on the Point, but there were four down in the Oven in the fading light, and then two more in a stream between there and Azalea Pond.
had to share the stream with bathing Grackles, though. noisy neighbors!
I went back in the morning. Much better light, and even more Timberdoodles. Still two in that stream, and then:
pile o' timberdoodles
A whole pile of them in the Oven. I counted and watched, and then this little scene played out:
into this peaceful scene...
...came a chilly interloper from under the bank!
who waddled over to the pileup...
...and pushed himself into the middle.
So that was six in the Oven before I left for work. Meanwhile, Anders Peltomaa saw nine at the Triplets Bridge, and a Wilson's Snipe. And then the reports really got going. Tom Fiore estimated that there were at least a hundred Woodcock reported in Manhattan, and many more in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
Some of these birds were in trouble. Woodcocks have a tendency to fly into building. This is a problem for many birds, but Timberdoodles especially because they don't see directly in front of them very well. Their eyes are way high and towards the back of their head, which is great for scanning for predators, but not so great for flying. According to a New York Times story, the Wild Bird Fund (local wildlife rehabilitators; great people, you should send them money) had 55 Woodcocks brought to them.
Others fared even worse. Woodcocks, as I said, have their eyes placed so they can scan for predators. They need this because they are slow and tasty, and even with the nearly 360-degree vision, they rely heavily on their excellent camouflage. When they're on a forest floor covered in leaves or pine needles, they pretty much disappear. But when thy're on snow, or the bare muddy banks of a stream...well, that's a problem. Birders watched Timerdoodles get snatched up by hawks all day long. Probably at least 50 in Central Park alone; I heard from one birder that he watched a single young Red-Tailed Hawk eat three in close succession. It was a raptor buffet.
So when I finally made it to Triplets Bridge, only three of the nine woodcock Anders had seen in the mrning were still there. But the Wilson's Snipe abided, foraging peacefully in the stream.
At one point he ruffled himself up and preened a bit. I've never had such a good close view of a Snipe before.
The remaining timberdoodles were ware buy still active. One came out and walked across the stream near the Snipe, giving me a chance to see both of these similar birds together.
The Wilson's Snipe by itself gives the impression of being a largish bird. It is not. It was much smaller then the Woodcock, which is itself not huge, being rather smaller than a football.
in the hollow
That woodcock eventually nestled itself in a hollow, where it foraged.
Many of the surviving Timberdoodles flew out that night, but some remained in diminishing numbers. I saw one as late as Sunday in the Ramble. They should be close to finishing up migration at this point, though I know that Gabriel Willow is leading a group to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn on Saturday to see their spectacular mating flights.