I was especially pleased with this sighting of an American Woodcock for so many reasons. For a start, it was the first bird that had caught the attention of my new binoculars (Busnells 8×42 L series, in case you need to know). There were plenty of House Sparrows in Bryant Park, but they didn’t warrant first focus.

For a second reason, I just don’t see enough woodcocks, so I was delighted to find it shading under a small evergreen. In truth, the bird was so close I could have dispensed with the glasses altogether, but there you go.

After a while, it tip-toed out into the flower bed amongst the tulips and muscari, probing the soft, well composted soil. The probing was quick and delicate but at one point it stopped, bill deep into the earth.

If it were possible, it seemed as if its eyes bulged even more than usual as it came up against resistance. It pulled, gaining a bit of beak back. It pulled a little more and was finally rewarded with a large worm.

It shlurped up the worm and continued to probe. The visitors to Bryant Park went about their business (if it is not on a mobile phone it can’t be real) as the bird fed amongst the flowers before eventually retiring back to its quiet spot under the conifer.

I now found myself humming Tiny Tim’s rendition of “Tiptoe Through The Tulips”, which if you haven’t heard it, don’t. It will creep you out.

The bird was so content as it fed that it scarcely noticed the crowds that promenaded along the paths within 5 feet of it. The woodcock stopped in a gap between the flowers and looked straight at me. At least it appeared to be looking straight at me, its surround-sight gives it 20-20 vision behind itself, so it might just as easily have been admiring the back of its own head. But it gave me my first chance to note the keel on the bill.

If the close sighting of a feeding American Woodcock with my new binocular’s first focus wasn’t enough, there was one more surprise for me when I uploaded the photos to my computer. I have a peculiar inclination when it comes to bird photographs. I get a real kick if I can achieve a picture that places a bird in a particular location and this shot, despite it being completely unintentional will go down as one of my favourites.

Look closely at the catchlight in the woodcock’s eye and you will see a silhouetted reflection of the Empire State Building.

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Written by Redgannet
Redgannet worked for more than 35 years as a flight attendant for an international airline. He came to birding late in his career but, considering the distractions, doesn't regret the missed opportunities. He was paid to visit six continents and took full advantage of the chance to bird the world. He adopted the nom de blog, Redgannet, to avoid remonstrations from his overbearing employer, but secretly hoped that the air of mystery would make him more attractive to women. Now grounded, he is looking forward to seeing the seasons turn from a fixed point.