Bird watchers and nature fans are invited to join Pete Axelrod of Wild Birds Unlimited and Friends of The Great Swamp for the annual Woodcock Talk and Walk events. The first will be held in Lenape Park in Cranford on Wednesday, March 18 at 6:15 p.m. and the other will be held at the Watchung Stables off of Summit Avenue in the Watchung Reservation on Wednesday, March 25 at 6:30 p.m.
“The American Woodcock requires very specific habitats, so it’s a great source of pride that Union County’s preserved open spaces can be a home for this unusual bird,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “The annual Talk and Walk events help our residents and visitors see and hear the value of local nature conservation.”
Hosted by the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, the annual Woodcock Talk & Walk provides seasoned birders and beginners alike with the chance to catch a glimpse of the American Woodcock and learn more about this unusual and elusive bird.
The American Woodcock is known by a variety of colorful names including Timberdoodle, Labrador twister, Night partridge, Mudbat, and Bog sucker.
The species is most commonly referred to as the woodcock due to its preference for wooded areas. American Woodcocks are drawn to moist forests and require dense woodland, providing ample cover and food.
In the spring, the bird seeks out forest clearings, abandoned fields spotted with low brush or open fields next to forest edges to serve as courtship sites.
In preparation for mating, male Woodcocks establish individual territories known as singing grounds.
Perhaps the most fascinating attribute of the American Woodcock is the acrobatic courtship displays performed by the males.
As part of their mating ritual, a displaying male on the ground will emit a nasal, buzzing call referred to as a peent, to attract females. He then takes flight and ascends 200 or 300 feet. All the while, musical twittering sounds are made by the male’s wings. Afterwards, he will spiral or zigzag back to the ground while producing a liquid chirp.
The March 18 event at Lenape Park will meet at the old Trap and Skeet field house near the main entrance off Kenilworth Boulevard/County Road 509 in Cranford (the park entrance is between Dorset Drive and Nomahegan Road).
The March 25 Woodcock Walk & Talk in the Watchung Reservation will take place at the Deserted Village. The group will meet at Masker’s Barn, which is located at the far end of Cataract Hollow Road in Berkeley Heights (GPS users: plug in 13 Cataract Hollow Road and follow road to the end).
Participants are advised to dress warm and bring a flashlight. Both events are free and open to adults and children age 10 and up with an adult. Pre-registration is required by emailing the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on activities and programs in Union County parks, and to find out about volunteering with Union County Adopt-a-Park, call 908-527-4900 or visit ucnj.org/parks.
Photo credit with more information about the American Woodcock in New Jersey:American Woodcock via Rutgers University – Newark.
For quick links to all Union County environmental and sustainability programs visit The Green Connection online at www.ucnj.org/green-connection.
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