This is a photo of an American Woodcock.
Don’t see it? Look closer.
Still having trouble? Look again …
She is sitting on her nest. She was found quite by accident, flushed out when the gentleman doing some tree work for us stepped about a foot from her nest. He counted four eggs before he retreated to work in a different area.
Thankfully she returned to sit on her eggs. She never once moved or blinked during the brief few minutes needed to capture her image.
We know she has been there for at least a week. The Audubon Society reports the eggs should take about 21 days to hatch. Once chicks hatch they remain with and dependent on their mother for about a month. Once on their own, the youngsters will likely stay in the general area until it is time to migrate south, sometime between October and early winter.
What a pleasure it will be to watch for signs the eggs have hatched. Naturally we will refrain from working in the area until the nest is no longer active.
Once they move on we will do what we can to let the woods heal from our activity, leaving some branches and logs in hopes that mama woodcock returns to nest again. This is a good example of why it is not beneficial to clean wooded areas of all brush and logs. Creatures you may never see use these areas to nest, for food and for shelter.
Learn more about the American Woodcock at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and at The Audubon.org. The males are known for their unusual mating routines, something I’ll watch for next spring now that I know American Woodcocks live nearby.
May 7 update: I went out to see how mama woodcock was doing to find no sign of her and her four eggs destroyed. Not sure what caused the destruction. So sad.