Yesterday I opened up my inbox to discover an e-mail from a Big Country Audubon member who claimed to have seen an American Woodcock. Baloney! He saw a snipe. But when he sent the promised pictures, I was in SHOCK!
How could this be? Woodcocks are nocturnal (he saw it during the daylight), they are very shy and secretive (it was walking about in plain sight), and he was able to approach it at close range (woodcocks never let you get close to them) to photograph it. Besides, woodcocks are a bird of moist, wet, dense habitat within dense eastern woods. This bird was seen on top of the cedar covered mountains in Buffalo Gap, Texas. No woodcock in his right mind would willingly choose cedar habitat to land in.
So how did this solitary and secretive bird end up on this West Texas blog? The weather. An early cold front with winds out of the northeast probably had a lot to do with this misguided sandpiper ending up in Buffalo Gap. This little guy must have been migrating, hit our storm system which blew him off course, and he flew until his fat reserves could no longer sustain flight, and he dropped out of the sky onto the sidewalk in front of an Audubon member’s house who happened to have a camera. While the woodcock scarfed up bugs in the front yard, Jay Capra grabbed his camera, took a couple of shots and then called the family to come look. Their response upon seeing the bird: “that’s the ugliest bird we’ve ever seen.”
Thank you, Jay, for documenting this rare bird! I know of only one other sighting from another Big Country Audubon member and it came from the Abilene State Park years ago. (We’re still checking to determine how many years ago.) And like Jay’s sighting, we found it hard to believe. Until now.