American Woodcocks can be difficult to find because they spend their days in damp forests or thickets in overgrown fields where their plumage provides excellent camouflage. They are most commonly encountered at dusk or dawn in late winter or early spring during their unique courtship ritual. Around twilight, the males fly high into the air then spiral back to earth while making a variety of chirps. Once back on the ground, they make nasal peent calls for several minutes, before launching into their display fights again. Each year Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy conducts a field trip to look for courting males.
Fifteen participants led by Emily Southgate had a great evening on the March 3 walk at the Institute Farm near Aldie. The Woodcocks must have been listening to the recordings and practicing for us. We had five or six (or maybe more) Woodcocks very close to us, peenting and doing the wing noise as they went up and chirping as they came down. We saw them repeatedly on the paths and flying just a few feet away. They started about 6:20pm and continued displaying for about half an hour.