Backyard American Woodcock

An unlikely bird visitor

From about 1:30 p.m. to 2:10 p.m. on Apr 8, 2014, I watched an American Woodcock slowly wobble from the flower bed along the west side our house, southward through our west spirea flower bed. It disappeared from my view when it moved behind the big oak tree at the southwest corner of our yard. During it's journey, it occasionally probed the soft dirt for food. I saw it gulp down a worm.

This is a new yard bird and quite the surprise sighting for a small urban lot.

At about 1:30 p.m., our dog Barney was determined to go outside through the back door. When I let him out, I watched him through the kitchen window. The neighbor who borders the south edge of our yard had his boxer dog outside. That's why Barney wanted out.

The two dogs met at the fence near the southwest corner of our lot, and they barked at each other. Then I saw a bird fly up from near Barney. That area of the yard is under shrubs and the ground is covered with some kind of vine, ivy, or ground cover plant. At the very south edge, it's also where I dump yard debris.

I thought it strange for a Mourning Dove to have such a delayed reaction with flight, especially so close to Barney. But I immediately noticed that the flight was different. It fluttered more. I saw the bird fly down toward the west side of the house. I wondered if it was an AMWO, since they would be migrating now, so I hustled to the computer room.

I looked out the west-facing window in our computer room. This room exists at the southwest corner of our house. On the ground, holding still, a few feet from the house foundation was the AMWO.

After holding still for a while, it began its very slow, wobbling journey southward. Around 1:45 p.m. while halfway through the west spirea bed, it started foraging.

Then it wobbled, walked slowly, paused at times, foraged at times, and finally at 2:10 p.m., it moved along the west side of the big oak tree and in behind the tree base at the southwest corner of our backyard. The AMWO moved back into the ground cover area with the shrubs. That area offers a little more protection.

If the bird wanted to hunker down and rest, it could do it easier in the southwest corner of the yard with the ground cover, old leaf litter, and shrubs. Plus fencing exists along the west and south edges of our yard.

It's comical to watch the AMWO's body swivel forward and backward while the legs and head remain still. It would slowly lift up one leg and place it forward while swiveling. Then hold its legs still while swiveling its body. Then it would advance the next leg forward. Swiveling. Lots of Swiveling.

Sometimes it would stop swiveling, and hold perfectly still. And occasionally, it stuck its long bill into the dirt, searching for morsels.

It's a fun bird to watch. The camouflage pattern on its back looks like tree bark and old leaves. It has some warm, dull, burnt orange-ish coloring on its sides. When an AMWO rests on a ground with leaf litter, it can be difficult to spot the bird because it blends in so well.

The west spirea bed is mostly void of old leaves, but the ground cover area at the sound end of our yard contains enough leaf litter for the bird to blend in if it wants to hide. It's a bit difficult to rake leaves from the ground cover area.

I have not seen the AMWO since it moved behind the oak tree at 2:10 p.m.

Maybe it will hang around for the day and make its "peent" call this evening.

At 4:25 p.m. while talking on the phone and looking through the south-facing computer room window, the AMWO flew up a few feet and landed back down. It flew up a little southeast of the big oak tree in the southwest corner of our backyard and landed near the west side of the garage. Maybe a squirrel or chipmunk got too close and caused it to fly up. It then hunkered down in the vegetation of ground cover and leaves.

At 4:36 p.m., the AMWO is up and moving around a little near the west side of the garage. It ruffled its feathers. And now it's foraging.

At 4:41 p.m., the AMWO is sitting mostly upright in the same area near the west side of the garage. About six feet from the garage near the base of the first shrub west of the garage.

At 4:44 p.m., the AMWO is foraging, wobbling toward the garage, probing the ground.

At 4:47 p.m., the AMWO has moved closer to the south edge of the yard, which is fenced. It is currently foraging. Through binocs, I'm able to see the AMWO while seated at my desk.

At 4:50 p.m., the AMWO is moving west along the fencing at the south edge of the backyard. It's now west of the first shrub. It's still foraging.

At 4:59 p.m., the AMWO is hunkered down on top of the debris pile that I created recently from old bird seed shells, leaves, and plant stalks that I've swept up recently from our backyard.

At 5:34 p.m., the AMWO is still resting on top of the debris pile in front of the wire fencing at the south edge of the backyard.

At 6:05 p.m., the AMWO is still resting at the same location, on top of the debris pile per above.

At 6:15 p.m., the AMWO is up moving around. It's wobbling toward the east. It's foraging.

At 7:35 p.m., I found the AMWO. I searched for a few minutes because I stopped watching it a while ago. Currently, the AMWO is sitting on the ground about three feet west of the garage. No peenting sounds this evening yet.

At 7:41 p.m., the AMWO is still resting on the ground near the garage. It appears to be going to sleep. It closes its eyes.

At 7:48 p.m., the AMWO is foraging where it had been resting, near the west side of the garage. An NOCA is now singing too in or near the backyard.

At 7:52 p.m., the AMWO settled back down on the ground, and it turned its head and buried its bill into its body. I guess it's going to sleep now. Will it stay the night, or is it waiting for it to get darker before flying on? I have not seen a cat in our yard all year in 2014. Of course, we had snowcover until mid-March. I rarely see a cat in our yard during the day when they are around. But what about at night? Do any cats saunter through at night? If so, then the AMWO is probably doomed. I'll check for feathers in the morning. That's a horrible thought. But too many ignorant and uncaring humans allow their pet cats to roam the outdoors, or the uncaring humans think that they are caring by supporting feral cats.

At 7:58 p.m., the NOCA continues to sing in the backyard. It's perched in the shrub at the southwest corner of the yard. The AMWO appears to be sleeping with its head turned and bill tucked.

At 8:01 p.m., the AMWO is gone! I didn't see it fly off. That was sudden. I'll search some more. It's a partly cloudy evening with good light.

8:16 p.m. update: the AMWO is still in the backyard in the same spot, a few feet west of the garage, near the southwest corner of the garage. The bird lowered itself even more to the ground. Its head points forward, but the body is flatter to the ground. It's hard to see from the C.R. I verified the sighting from CP's old bedroom, located on the second floor. I wish that it had chosen the southwest corner of the backyard instead of near the garage. In the past, I've seen cats enter our yard from the neighbor's wooden fencing south of our yard. The fencing runs north-south. If a cat enters from that pathway, it would plop down onto our backyard near where the AMWO is hunkered down now. It really got itself lowered to the ground. Flattened out some, I guess.

At 8:42 p.m., the AMWO flew away!!!

I stood at the C.R. window and watched the AMWO through my little 6x30 Leupold Yosemite binoculars from 8:21 p.m. to 8:42 p.m.

At 8:21 p.m., the AMWO was up moving around. At 8:23 p.m., it foraged for a bit. At 8:25 p.m., it rested.

At 8:31 p.m., it got more active. It moved out more into the open along the west side of the garage. It stood on bare ground. It faced toward the house or northward. It stood up. No more hunkering down and no more resting. It did not move around a lot, but it stayed busy preening and stretching and flapping its wings.

It would stand up tall and stretch its wings all the way open. It flapped its wings in short movements, and once it flapped it wings strong enough to produce enough wind to move leaves.

It acted like it was stretching and warming up.

We have a light at the northwest corner of the garage. The glow lit up the west side of the garage area enough that I could watch the AMWO despite the mostly dark landscape.

It was partly cloudy sky. Some sunset colors still remained at 8:42 p.m. when the AMWO flew off.

Before it flew away, the AMWO would preen for long periods by burying its bill into its left side. The preening movements were apparently very short. It appeared like it was resting except it was standing upright.

Shortly before 8:42 p.m., the AMWO moved a bit more forward. It remained upright. Paused. Looked around. Preened. Stretched its wings. Finally at 8:42 p.m., it lifted up flew north over the driveway along the east side of the house about the height of the top of the house.

It never made a sound, but it was fun to watch. When I lost sight of it because it made itself extra low to the ground when it rested, I thought it might stay the night or at least wait to leave later tonight.

But when it was up moving at 8:21 p.m, and when it quickly moved forward at 8:31 p.m., then it felt like it would be leaving soon. That short little burst of movement at 8:31 p.m. was the fastest I had seen it move today when on the ground.

I'm glad it moved on. I hope it gets away from the urban world. It does not have to go far to the north to get outside of development.

Glad it stopped by. It was joy to watch.

#bird - #home