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 has been working for over 33 years as a crew member/flight attendant and enjoys the well-ventilated air of the outdoors. The nom de blog, Redgannet, was adopted to add an air of mystery and to make himself more attractive to women. His father first whetted Redguga's appetite for all things natural by buying him his first pair of 7x35s and a copy of Thorburn's Birds. Having no mentor beyond an indulgent parent, he spent the first season hoping for an Egyptian Vulture at the bird table in his English garden. His most memorable birding moment is seeing an Egyptian Vulture with those same binoculars 26 years later. Redgannet is married to Canon, but his heart and half of his house belongs to Helen and their son Joseph. He is looking forward to communicating with people who don't ask if he is searching for the "feathered variety" of bird.