I met an old friend for dinner last night. Linda and I knew each other back in junior high but lost touch, as many people do. We reconnected last year through Facebook, which more and more people are doing.
When I called her yesterday to confirm a time she asked me when was sunset. At first I thought she was being a bit metaphysical. She said she’d explain when she saw me.
What she had in mind was a trip to the Arboretum in Madison. She wanted me to hear the woodcocks. Now, this might not have been at the top of my list of things to do on a Friday night, but I have found in life that when in a friend offers to share something with you, accept the invitation. You never know what you might find.
The sunlight was fading as we parked in the lot near the visitor center. The temperature was fairly moderate considering what we’ve been experiencing this spring. It was drizzling a little but it stopped as we got out of the car.
Deer moved through the prairie ahead of us. Over the sound of the Beltline traffic I could hear various bird calls but really wasn’t sure what I was listening for. Linda described the sound of the woodcock and after a few minutes I heard it too. It’s called peenting. The peenting goes on for a while as the woodcock circles, sending his call in every direction.
When the time is right the woodcock silently takes flight, gradually gaining height. As he gains height you hear this twittering sound. The twittering sound is created as the air passes through its feathers. The bird circles overhead. Loud vocal chirping joins the twittering sound as the woodcock finishes his sky dance and descends back to earth.
As someone put it, the woodcock looks like it was designed by committee with its stubby body and long beak that looks out of proportion.
I’m mesmerized by this odd looking bird’s evening dance. It’s on my list for annual spring-time rituals.