It was a beautiful Spring evening last night in the Ohio Valley. The temperature was in the mid 40’s and the sky was clear of clouds. And as I thought to myself as I was leaving work knowing that I had the next day off, that I should call my buddy Phil and see if he might like to go birding this evening at Gilmore Ponds and look for some American Woodcocks.
Gilmore Ponds is a 268 acre nature lovers paradise which sits in amongst scores of industrial areas and the suburbs of Hamilton and West Chester. Seasonal flooding makes this a prime location for waterfowl and wading birds especially during the Spring. And as we enter the early part of Spring we start to notice the “Peenting” call of the American Woodcock (Scolopax minor). And the real treat of the American Woodcock is witnessing the aerial display of the male as it flies up in the air as it’s wings create that unmistakable “Tweetering” sound.
We arrived a little before 8 pm and set about the task of locating the bird first by it “Peent” call. Phil was the first to hear it just after a freight train passed leaving only the sound of passing cars on Gilmore Road. The trail cut through open meadow on both sides as more Woodcocks n0w called from either side of us. As the darkness deepened a single bird took off and landed on the trail just 20 feet away on the trail. With the naked eye it was just another dark shape, however as we put our bins on the bird there was no denying that it was a Woodcock.
We started to walk in the direction of this one observation platform as more and more Woodcocks continued to “Peent”. At the observation platform we scanned the area of water where the Canadian Geese and Mallards were settling in for the night, and another Woodcock called from in front of use and to the right a little. It was dark now and really difficult to see, but then I heard the display sound of wings and looking in the direction of the sound I was able to catch the Woodcock as it displayed in the air. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was looking in the exact spot where it took off I never would have seen it.
Darkness was really settling in around us as 8:30 approached. Time to walk back to the car and head home. A second aerial display was seen as the lights from the surrounding area highlighted the bird as it shot up and away creating the unusual “Tweetering” sound with it’s wings as it’s flying.
We talked about the total amount of birds either seen or heard this evening as we walked back. Wanting to be more on the conservative side we conclude 5-6 birds. This night was the most activity I had seen of American Woodcocks in a long time and was well worth the trip, even though it’s only about a 30 minute drive. A trip list of birds aren’t necessary at this point since we found what we came for. Total success.