On the lookout for the first signs of spring? Bird watchers and nature fans are invited to break out their binoculars and gather for the annual Union County Woodcock Walk & Talk events. One will be held in the Watchung Reservation in Berkeley Heights on Tuesday, March 13 and the other will be in Lenape Park in Cranford on Tuesday, March 20. Both programs start at 6:00 p.m. and conclude around 8:15 p.m.
The two 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.
“The American Woodcock requires very specific habitats, so it’s a great source of pride that Union County’s preserved open spaces can support this unusual bird,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “The annual Walk & Talk 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 Walk & Talk 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.
“Bird watchers appreciate spotting this unique bird in March, as its appearance signals warmer weather and sunny days to come after a long winter,” explained Granados.
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, males 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, which have been described as mesmerizing.
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 13 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), at 6:00 p.m.
The March 20 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).
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.
For quick links to all Union County environmental and sustainability programs visit The Green Connection online at ucnj.org/green-connection.
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