The Management are out of the office this week and in the absence of adult supervision, the beat writers have been running amok. The minimum-wage work force broke into the executive sherry cabinet and toasted the fat cats who can afford to take a vacation during the peak season and when the big cheeses from the Big Apple return to their desks they will find that the beat writers have employed themselves by scanning their genitals and uploading them to the new spur of the website, 10,000 Flashes.

But now the hangover has started and with it comes the realisation that Mike and Corey will soon be back at the helm and that a “beat writers’ advisory e-mail” will be issued. With a sudden, creditable, urgency, the bloggers dispersed in an attempt to find something to appease the bosses and hopefully lay the blame for the mess in the sink on someone else. Redgannet headed for Jamaica Bay where the shade of a bush and the warmth of the day proved too much for him. As luck would have it though, having slept off the effects of Corey’s dark rum, he awoke to find that he was not alone.

Redgannet is a proponent of the patient, sit and wait approach to birding which suits his beery, weary lifestyle and commonly finds him taking a nap until the worst of the excitement and the headache has passed. On this occasion it paid dividends as he woke to find that he was sharing the shade with an American Woodcock.

It felt as if the bird was looking straight at him, but woodcocks’ eyes are placed so high and so far back on their head that they can see in a complete circle and it is not easy to say which direction the bird was actually focusing on. In front of the head, the vision from each eye overlaps in a narrow wedge-shaped area that allows for depth perception in flight. A similar feature behind the head would presumably come in useful if the bird should ever need to reverse into a tight space.

Still slightly groggy (Mike used to have a very nice collection of malt whisky in his filing cabinet), Redgannet was unable to explain the peculiar behaviour of the woodcock. It leaned forward, rocking from side to side as if about to receive serve from Martina Navratilova. Its tail was cocked stiffly above its back and flicked up and down in what appeared to be a ritualised display. The behaviour was repeated three times before the bird suddenly took off as if propelled from the ground by some unseen force.

Perhaps it was a display of some sort? There are reports of  vaguely similar behaviour when trying to distract a threat away from a nest, or maybe it was a prelude to launching into flight. If it was trying to defend a nest, the effort may have been in vain as the mowers passed through this way shortly after. His only other encounters with American Woodcock have been with flushing birds which leaves Redgannet ignorant of their pre-flight procedures. Dumbness and deafness left him with no recollection of any sound from the bird during this encounter.

Anyway, here’s hoping that The Management had good holidays and that they saw enough good birds to enable them to overlook the excesses of the beat writers when they were left home alone.

The ‘related posts’ link has not picked up on Mike’s posts about displaying woodcock and some interesting facts about woodcocks. Similarly missed is Corey’s post from Bryant Park. Tags boys, tags!

This post has been submitted to Bird Photography Weekly #156. Go check it out!

If you liked this post and want to see more great images of birds make sure to check out 10,000 Clicks, our big (and growing) page of galleries here at 10,000 Birds.

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.