A few days ago, my neighbor who does my mowing was cutting in the neglected field above the cabin when he flushed a woodcock, who was obviously a mother woodcock because she landed nearby and began performing the old “I’m-a-poor-injured-woodcock-with-a-broken-wing.-I’m-delicious-and-easy-to-catch.- Come,-follow-me!” routine.
So Bud turned off the mower, looked around, and spotted her four chicks. He then ran down to the house to tell us of his discovery, and Karen went up there with her camera and photographed the brood.
The four young woodcock were admirably camouflaged and Karen reports that they followed mother’s instructions and remained perfectly frozen, with the exception of all the little bright brown eyes which followed Karen’s every movement.
Naturally, mowing operations were suspended and the nosy humans all withdrew to allow Mother Woodcock to retrieve her brood and escort them back into the nearby woods.
I was quite surprised to learn that woodcock bred on our Central Pennsylvania farm. I can’t recall ever seeing a woodcock outside of hunting season in the Fall. I always thought they bred up in Maritime Canada and only migrated to Pennsylvania.
But the Wikipedia entry says that they breed all the way down to Northern Virginia, and in some cases as far south as Florida and Texas. (!) “Most hens lay four eggs,” the entry reports.