With the last Barn Owl nest box to setup, Don, Doris, Fred and I met up around 3:00 pm and headed out to the location we had decided upon. The materials were where had left them, so all we took were the equipment needed for the install. Once arriving at the location, we assembled the box, then dug the hole for the post and placed the nest box in its home. After a few minor adjustments, we added a couple of braces and shored up the base. We had one slight hiccup...in our haste to get the job done, we overlooked latching the side door and Fred and I had to give Don a lift to get the hook in place. After the work was done, I headed to Jamaica Bay wildlife refuge visitor's center, for a scheduled Woodcock walk that was being led by Rangers Julia and Kayleigh (sp). Ranger Julia asked if I would like to volunteer in co-leading with her and Kayleigh on the walk and I obliged. The walk was scheduled for 7:10 - 9:00 and attracted 40 attendees...a large group for a bird walk. Ranger Julia, began the event by giving a talk on Woodcocks and explained some of the etiquette that was required for the walk such as no talking, cell phones being turned off etc. During the presentation, one of the attendees pulled a surprise on the group by producing a “dead” woodcock that she had kept in relatively good shape and had brought in to display. The entire group all had good looks and for many it was their first time seeing one albeit, it was not alive.
Once Julia got through her talk, we headed outside which was around 7:20 pm and immediately heard the “Peent” call that is associated with this bird. Further into the walk, we could hear the calls all around us. It was obvious we were going to do better this year; we first saw the silhouette of one Woodcock and then I got two of them in Don’s spotlight that I had taken with me. After about an hour, we called it a night and headed back into the refuge. The consensus among attendees, was that the walk was a success. Initially, I had my doubts on the size of the group being able to maintain silence during the walk; however, it was apparent that Julia was able to convey the importance of being quiet and that along with a bit of luck was critical to the night's success. The Woodcock, while in the same family as shorebirds is considered a forest bird and spends the day in the woods where its cryptic coloring blends into the leaf litter. On spring evenings, like the one we went out on, the Woodcock comes out into the open to do the spectacular sky dance (note, only the male does this dance). It takes a lot of patience and plenty of luck to see Woodcocks and we had enough of both as we were able to see a few of them.