Extraordinary Sighting

Jeffrey Schoonmaker

At 12:30 p.m. this afternoon my wife and I rounded a curve on the drive through the Saratoga Battlefield and were delighted to see a family of plump brown birds crossing the road.  Our minds both said "Ruffed Grouse" before we had a chance to think about an ID.  Our minds were wrong.  In the next millisecond we realized we were seeing American Woodcocks!  Five of them!  And they were not in any hurry to cross the road.  We stopped the car, looked through our binoculars, and witnessed an amazing display.  They were all imitating Spotted Sandpipers.  All five of them were bobbing up and down as they meandered forward!  They were moving so slowly, with a straggler or two turning to go back the other way, that I had plenty of time to get my camera, open the car door, and take photos.  They didn't get spooked and flee away.  They kept up their slow, bouncing pace toward the other side.  I excitedly said to Doris, "Get a video of them!"  She had plenty of time to get her door open and get her smartphone on the right setting to get a generous amount of video footage as the five woodcocks bobbled their way across, onto the grassy shoulder, and down the hill where they finally disappeared into the brush.  

The lead woodcock seemed a bit larger, probably the parent.  I got a good close-up of that one.  Has any one of you witnessed this behavior or read about it?  We will never forget this extraordinary birding experience.  And it came after I made a couple of bone-headed and time-consuming wrong turns requiring much backtracking.  Had I made the correct turns on my way to the SBHP, we would have missed this display completely.  While my timing was way off, God's timing was perfect!  Thanks!

Two photos are obviously included here.  If I can handle the transfer of the video from my wife's smartphone to this computer and attach it to another email, I will do so.  Does the listserve have the capacity to accept and send videos?

Jeff Schoonmaker

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