A group of seven birders braved a chilly March evening at Glacier Ridge Metro Park to welcome one of Ohio’s earliest return migrants, the American Woodcock! We found a spot at the edge of the fields around the windmill and watched flocks of blackbirds pass while waiting for their displays to start. Just 10 minutes after sundown, we heard the first buzzy calls. Strangely, several woodcocks flew past us relatively low before any of them performed a courtship flight, but we eventually got to see one spiral up into the sky. Everyone present got to see and hear the target birds, and we left after it got too dark to see.
American Woodcocks should be easy to find displaying at dawn or dusk in the right habitat during March and into early May. Glacier Ridge has the wet fields with long grass that they prefer, but so do many other parks. You can find woodcocks in similar habitats at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park on the Teal Trail, in the Buckeye Area at Walnut Woods Metro Park, or in the fields at Rocky Fork Metro Park. They can also be found in good numbers at Deer Creek State Park and along Panhandle Road in the Delaware Wildlife Area.
Listen for the calls first, and then try to spot the birds as they take off from the ground, or as they return to the exact same spot after their display flight ends. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a well-camouflaged woodcock picking through the leaf litter in wet woodland areas. They’re fascinating birds that are well worth the search!