Bird Surprises

Before moving to Syracuse and becoming a plant ecology graduate student, my field work was bird-based. I was a point-counter, transect-walker, and wife of the bird-obsessed. In fact, last summer’s field season left me with the vestiges of being a real birder – I realized this after I found myself subconsciously tallying what birds and how many were singing in a 150 meter radius of me, while sweeping off the back porch of my family’s cabin.

Being so immersed in the bird world has left its mark. Now my field work is plant-focused (as I’ve always wanted it to be), but I still find myself noting what bird species are around me. Generally this is a silent process. Occasionally it takes a turn for the worse. One day two weeks ago, I stepped too close to a cluster of low vegetation, and yelled as a woodcock flushed inches from my feet. (Tangentially, exclaiming in fright surprise is probably not the best way to impress your advisor and the 4 other men accompanying you. Especially when the group is also searching for cryptic rattlesnakes.) At any rate, we quickly realized that the woodcock had been sitting on eggs, took a few photos of said eggs, and moved on to lunch.

Last week, however, on a return trip to the site, I cautiously checked the nest site again, and found this:

American Woodcock on her nest.

This particular field site has many rare plants – some that you can’t find anywhere else in the state. But this little woodcock on her (his?) nest is still one of my favorite discoveries of the summer. I’m planning on avoiding the area around the nest for the near future, but you can bet that I’ll be stalking the area with binoculars over the coming weeks to see if I can glimpse babies!