Early American Woodcock & other birds on 2/18/11

American Woodcock photo from
On Friday, 2/18/11, Jim Kandefer, Mike Amodeo, and I censused several parts of White Memorial for the Great Backyard Bird Count. We came up with fairly good numbers of most of the expected species around the Museum Area, Pike Marsh, Bantam Lake Outlet, and N. Shore Rd. This included 4 Wood Ducks at the Outlet, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches at the Museum feeders, and a total of about 25 Eastern Bluebirds. We ended the day with a successful hour and a half of counting along Webster Rd., including Catlin Woods and Miry Brook Marsh. Arethusa Farm yielded a large mixed flock of blackbirds that included about 50 Red-wings and 20 Common Grackles with 500+ European Starlings. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the American Kestrel that we saw there on Wednesday. Heading back into Catlin Woods we heard a Great Horned Owl hooting from the area of the intersection of White's Woods and Webster Roads. Then we were astounded to hear an American Woodcock giving its "peent" call from Miry Brook Marsh. After a few "peents" it picked up and flew around the marsh before settling back down and resuming "peenting". Then it lifted off, flew around the marsh, up Webster Rd. over our heads, and northbound over Catlin Woods. We didn't hear it again after that. I think that this is only the third time that I've encountered a woodcock as early as February in the Litchfield/Morris area. Right after the excitement of finding this bird had subsided I started whistling for Northern Saw-whet Owls. We have found these birds quite regularly in Catlin Woods in mid and late February. After about 2 minutes of intermittent whistling we heard a Saw-whet answer from the north side of the road in the thick hemlocks. We saw it fly among the sapling-sized trees and then disappear. Not wanting to subject it to any more disturbance or being preyed upon by the Great Horned Owl, we stopped whistling and left it alone. When I get all of the results from our GBBC counters compiled, I'll post them in a future bog.

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