Woodcock Season

by Carl Strang

Two years ago I posted my first report on woodcocks at Mayslake Forest Preserve. That year there were two displaying males, and my impression was that the habitat was marginal.

Woodcocks are in the shorebird group, but are a fully terrestrial species. Photograph taken at Willowbrook Forest Preserve.

Last year there were none displaying on the few evenings I checked for them. Last week I led a night hike group into the most likely area for woodcocks, and we heard peents by 2-3 males. They were between the north savanna and Route 83, noisy with traffic but with enough open brush that nesting is conceivable.

Two days ago the birds’ choices became restricted by a prescribed burn. This was long overdue. It was concentrated in the savanna.

The burn removes dead tops of last year’s herbaceous plants. The blackened soil absorbs more solar heat, minerals are released to the ground, and the plants don’t have to fight their way through the tangle.

The burn area also included some of the male woodcocks’ dancing ground.

With the area even more open now, dancing spots may have been improved.

Some adjacent unburned areas could work as nesting habitat.

I could imagine a nest under the pines, for instance.

Other brushy areas, though the fire came right up to them, remain viable.

The litter beneath the bushes in the background was untouched by the flames.

Maybe I’m being a cockeyed optimist, but given that this burn was badly needed, helping in the battle against invasive plants, I remain hopeful that negative impacts on species such as the woodcock were minimal.

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1 Comment

  1. April 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    […] Woodcock Season « Nature Inquiries […]


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