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Thanks to Linda Williams' recent message reporting on American Woodcock 
courtship displays last Friday, we ventured out this evening to try our luck at 
Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary in Liberty. As we left the creek area 
where we had been serenaded by a pair of Barred Owls, we met other guests 
who indicated the gates would be closing at 6:00 pm. This was disappointing, 
as we understood the Woodcock's courtship displays did not begin until closer 
to 6:30.
  As luck would have it, we ran into Michael Sandy, the Director at Martha 
Lafite, and his wife Daranya who were heading out to observe the Woodcock 
display. They invited us to accompany them on their nighttime excursion. 
Michael and Daranya had observed the courtship flights the night before, so 
they knew exactly where to take us on the prarie to have the best chance of 
observing the Woodcocks' flight.
  We were pretty well situated by about 6:00 p.m, and after about 15 
minutes, the woodcocks began softly peenting and twittering in the grasses on 
the ridge above us. This went on for another 15-20 minutes before the male 
woodcocks began flying low across the fields and landing in mowed pathways 
only about 5-10 yards away from where we stood. As their displays became 
more elaborate, the males circled high into the air, with their wings flapping 
faster and faster, producing a high pitched whistle that rose in pitch as they 
climbed nearly out of sight. For a moment they appeared like giant bats on 
some kind of a frenzied arial display. Then when it seemed their high pitch and 
elevation could go no higher, they cascaded like falling leaves to the ground 
again, bursting into elaborate love songs, and then floating silently to the 
ground.
  They seemed completely exhausted after this tremendous burst of energy, 
sitting on the mowed pathways and hardly moving as Michael put his flashlight 
on them and we tried to capture a picture or two in the darkness. They would 
buzz and peent for about 15 seconds, each male waiting briefly in the hopes 
that his elaborate flights caught the attention of a female woodcock who 
might join him. We saw four males competing for attention this evening, but 
we were not lucky enough to observe any females, although we thought we 
heard them in the grasses. 
  For the next few evenings, Michael said they will leave the birds undisturbed 
for breeding, but they may go out again to observe the courtship displays this 
coming Friday, March 12. Thanks for a great evening!

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The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
ASM Website: http://mobirds.org/