It has been a while, for a lot of things. Least of which is this blog. Like most of us I get caught up in so many different things that I let others go, miss opportunities and flat out procrastinate until the point of even taking it up again is lost, not just to me but those that were waiting for it. Not one of my most flattering character traits, I know. And that’s what I love about birding. No matter how long it’s been it’s always there. At any whim you can pick up your binoculars and head outside. And so it was a few nights ago.
Jackie and I were both home together at sunset. This in itself is a note worthy event, what with meetings, work events and my near maniacal plunge into recreational ice hockey. Dinner was over and we were putzing around in the kitchen when I said lets go watch a timber doodle sky-dance. And with that we grabbed our binoculars and were out the door. It was hard to remember the last time we had done it. Had we made the time last spring? We weren’t sure. It was not only an annual event when we lived at Caratunk it was a nightly event. After all the American woodcock was the symbol of the Caratunk Wildlife Refuge, but now we had to make the time. Thankfully we did.
Now that we’re back in the Poconos our favorite sky-dance viewing spot is in a scrubby field that is part of a nursery, along the Brodhead creek south of Canadensis. It is also home to a pair of resident bald eagles one of which was evident on the nest even from our vantage point in the fading light. The scene was gray, without any brilliant sunset induced infusion of orange, pink or red but the sky was still spectacular as darker clouds trailing veils of vapor drifted in over the distant trees. We stood murmuring quietly about how beautiful it all was when we heard it – peeeeeeeeennt – a timber doodle calling to get noticed. Then the whistle of the wings, it was in flight and then just over us a whirl of wings as this plump little bird with the comically long beak climbed over our heads. It came in so close that as we followed it higher it got lost in the branches of the tree beside us and then the whistling of its flapping wings stopped and we picked up the distinct sound of its dramatic decent. PEEEEEEEEEEEENT – it was on the ground again.
We watched several more display flights, one of which we were able to follow all the way, even tracking it as it dropped like a combination of a leaf and a stone zigging, plummeting, sagging and plummeting until it was back on the ground – peeeeent. At one point we were listening to the nasal call when one approached us just above our heads nearly landing on us before realizing we were standing there. It veered quickly to our left and its wings whistled in response and then it was gone across the road and into the night.
Then across the field over the tree line a large silhouette, flapping, flapping, methodically, rhythmically, flapping. A shadowy great blue heron winging its way, where? We didn’t know but it was majestic and added greatly to the incredible experience we were witness to and then we sensed it before hearing it, “Hoo-huh-hooooooo-hoo-hoo,” a great horned owl calling. The higher pitched female responded and then again more a feeling than a sound, something we could sense in our chests the deeper, primitive call of the male, “hoo-huh-hooooooo-hoo-hoo.” Did you hear that, Jackie nodded.
As the rain finally reached us we bundled into the car. Making our way home we sat quietly still reveling in what we had just experienced. You never know what you’re going to find when you take the time for Timberdoodles.