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Filed under Outdoor Notes

May 23, 2013

I almost missed it. It was right in front of me, and I almost missed it. I was even looking down, looking for wildflowers, and I didn’t see it. In fact, I almost stepped on it.

How do you miss something like that?

Woodcock on nest (Scolopax minor)

And I would have missed it, were it not for the burst of noise that seemed to come from directly beneath my left foot.

Got it?

American Woodcock on nest

Right there.

American Woodcock


A whirr, a brief glimpse of small brown bird, and a sudden disappearance, gotta be a Timberdoodle, aka, the American Woodcock (Scolopax minor).

She makes “grring” noises—like a perturbed porcupine—from very close by. I Need to leave quickly, but where to put my big feet?

Gotta move very, very carefully. Don’t want to scramble any eggs or, heavens forfend, squish a chick.

Okay, it’s a nest. Two eggs? One quick photo and I’m gone.

Woodcock nest, incomplete clutch

Woodcock nest, three eggs.

Whoops, three eggs.

A couple of days later I snuck back and used a telephoto for the bird on the nest. The sun went behind a cloud as I approached.

Woodcock on nest

Woodcock on nest

I took a low-angle shot.  As I stood up to leave, the sun broke through the clouds. The effect of the dappling of sun and shade was magic. Looking down on her back, I zoomed in for a nice tight portrait.1

Woodcock on nest

Sun-dappled Woodcock in a sun-dappled woods.

I got a heads up from a friend that Timberdoodle incubation is pretty predictable. I did a little research and found a terrific write-up from the Ruffed Grouse Society.

“Although in the more southern areas, woodcock no doubt at times nest earlier, they usually nest from early March into June. A typical timberdoodle nest is a slight depression on the ground among some dead leaves. A female lays one egg a day until she completes the normal clutch of four. The eggs, which are oval, have a slight gloss to them and may vary from a pinkish buff to cinnamon with brown blotches and darker speckling. The incubation process takes 19 to 22 days.”2

So, twenty days later, what should I do? Should I revisit the nest and hope to get a photo of the chicks?


Someday, I will run into some and grab the shot, but not this year. Mama Woodcock will have enough problems bringing off her brood without me wandering around the nursery.  Besides, Steve Wilson over at Blue Jay Barrens already has a great article on Woodcock chicks.3

Maybe I’ll see the young’uns next year, when they’re all grown up fat and sassy.

American Woodcock

American Woodcock

Or maybe I’ll just get a pair of these (artwork by the inimitable Julie Zickefoose):

Available from Birdwatcher's Digest


  1. Peenter’s Mother? []
  2. “Woodcock Facts,” Ruffed Grouse Society, []
  3. Steve Wilson. “Woodcock Chick,” Blue Jay Barrens (14 April 2012). []

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One Response

  1. Julie Zickefoose said:

    O beautiful. If it makes you feel any better, I couldn’t find it. At all, until you gave me the Big Arrow. Those boxers are available at the BWD Store at if anyone is so moved. :)

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