Sunday, March 28, 2010

Leking in the moonlight with Dave

I never appreciated moonlight before moving to the country. I loved the moon, to be sure, what's not to love. But I didn't know about a moon so full you don't need a flashlight, or the reflection of that cold white light on the snow.

We went on a walk in the back 40 on Friday night, Dave and I, to see the mating dance of male American woodcocks. Those are birds, and the walk was organized by the Broadbrook Coalition, which takes care of the conservation land behind our house. Check this out:

This wasn't ours, but this is what we saw. About a dozen of us, including our fearless leader, a phd birder, and several naturalists. I was paranoid about getting cold, so I wore longjohns and mittens and a warm hat. We wrapped red cellophane around our flashlights for the walk home, but we didn't really need them, with the moon. I know those woods pretty well now, although we drove to a different trailhead, we didn't go in behind our house. We got to the dam and went past it and into Cook's Meadow, which has three meadows, really. It's great to be with people who know what they're doing -- I saw hooded mergansers, which are a kind of duck, and a bluebird. A real live bluebird.

We got to one of the meadows and hung out until dark, when the woodcock made his move. There were three of them nearby, actually, all with this peent noise first, then a wild flight up and around, then a plummet to the ground, all with different calls. The females watch from the sidelines and if they are suitable impressed, off they go.

This certain type of bird courtship is called a lek--we were lurking at a leking, an aviary singles bar, in essence. Way cool.

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