Bird watchers and nature fans of all kinds can try their hand at spotting an unusual and elusive bird in Union County parks next month, during the annual “Woodcock Walk.” The free event will be held in the Watchung Reservation on Tuesday evening March 14, and in Lenape Park on Tuesday evening March 21. Both events begin at 6:15 p.m.
“Among other distinctive traits the American Woodcock is known as harbinger of spring, so this annual event is a good way to shake off the winter blues, get outdoors and look for signs of warmer weather to come,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen.
The American Woodcock goes by a variety of colorful names including timberdoodle, Labrador twister, night partridge and bog sucker.
They are part of the shorebird family, but they have evolved to adjust to inland habitats. They require open fields for roosting and courting, thickets for foraging, and hardwood forests for nesting and brooding.
The bird’s distinctive behavior is highlighted by an airborne dance performed by the males, which observers have described as mesmerizing.
Other behaviors unique to the woodcock include its buzzy “peent” calls and the bobbing motion it makes while foraging on the ground.
The two Woodcock Walk events are free and open to adults and children age 10 and up with an adult. Pre-registration is required by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants are advised to dress warmly and bring a flashlight.
Participants in the Watchung Reservation event will gather at Masker’s Barn in the Deserted Village, 13 Cataract Hollow Road in Berkeley Heights.
The Lenape Park group will meet at the old Trap and Skeet field house near the main entrance to Lenape Park, off Kenilworth Boulevard in Cranford.
Each Woodcock Walk will begin with a brief presentation hosted by birding experts Evelyn Morton and Pete Axelrod.
Representatives from the Friends of Lenape Park will also be on hand to share their knowledge at the Lenape event. As a member of the Union County Adopt-a-Park program, the Friends of Lenape Park oversees the bluebird boxes in the park among other projects.
After each presentation, participants will head into a nearby field to listen for the bird’s unusual call, and to keep watch to catch for a possible glimpse of the male in flight.
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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