The Nature’s Home Skills page is proving popular, soIi thought I’d share some tips to see a species that is very much in the spotlight at this time of year: the woodcock
The floodlights in the car park here at RSPB HQ are proving very helpful at the moment when it comes to seeing this, one of our most elusive birds.
Woodcocks are NOT easy to find on the ground like this (Stanley Porter - rspb-images.com), so witnessing a dusk flight is the most reliable way to see one.
Floodlit fly-byI was walking to my car one afternoon last week when three barrel-bodied shapes shot past, twisting among the trees before vanishing into the darkness.
Woodcocks do breed in the UK and you can see their roding display flight in spring and summer, but winter sees much greater numbers following the arrival of birds form the continent in autumn with peak arrivals coinciding with the full moon – apparently.
Summer woodland scene (complete with woodcock) commissioned from the frankly excellent illustrator Chris Shields especially for Nature's Home magazine that appeared in the April 2014 Nature by Night feature.
Enter the twilight zoneSpend a bit of twilight time (currently c16.00-16.15 here in Eastern England) standing in a spot with an all round view in or by woodland or scrub. Woodcocks are crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk, and they fly out form daytime roosts at this time to feed. Try to make sure you are standing with the sky providing a backdrop as that will make the birds easier to spot.
Look out for a chunky form weaving between the trees (Mike Langman - rspb-images.com - another fantastic Nature's Home illustrator)
You’ll need to be quick though because not only is the light poor, they don’t hang around and fly at or above head height usually quickly past. Look for a chunky shape with broad wings and if you see it silhouetted against the sky, you'll see the longish, down-pointed straight beak. If you see one, there could well be more so keep looking, or try again another evening. It's great fun and keeps you on your toes trying to spot them!
The soon to be printed January Nature’s Home has fieldcraft skills from three experts (he says modestly, as one of them is written by me), so please let us know how you get on with your wildlife watching by emailing me direct at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a comment below.