The Union County Board of County Commissioners invites bird watchers and nature fans to join Pete Axelrod of Friends of The Great Swamp for the annual Woodcock Talk & Walk workshop on Monday, March 13, in the Watchung Reservation beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Participants will meet at Masker’s Barn in the Deserted Village of Feltville, in the Berkeley Heights section of the Watchung Reservation. Masker’s Barn is located at the far end of Cataract Hollow Road in the Deserted Village. GPS users can plug in “13 Cataract Hollow Road, Berkeley Heights” and follow road to the end).
“The American Woodcock requires a range of very specific habitats, so it’s a great source of pride that our Union County park system offers enough variety to provide homes for this unusual bird,” said Union County Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados. “The annual Talk and Walk event helps our residents and visitors learn about the Woodcock, and learn about our efforts to preserve and protect our natural heritage, too.”
The event is free and open to adults and children age 10 and up with an adult. Pre-registration is requested by completing an online form at ucnj.org/parks-recreation/woodcock-walk-talk.
Hosted by the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, the annual Woodcock Talk & Walk provides seasoned birders and beginners alike with the chance to catch a glimpse of the American Woodcock and learn more about this unusual and elusive bird.
The American Woodcock is known by a variety of colorful names including Timberdoodle, Labrador Twister, Night Partridge, Mudbat and Bog Sucker. The species is most commonly referred to as the Woodcock due to its preference for wooded areas.
American Woodcocks are drawn to moist forests and require dense woodland, providing ample cover and food. In the spring, the bird seeks out forest clearings, abandoned fields spotted with low brush or open fields next to forest edges to serve as courtship sites. In preparation for mating, male Woodcocks establish individual territories known as singing grounds.
The most fascinating attribute of the American Woodcock is the acrobatic courtship displays performed by the males. As part of their mating ritual, a displaying male on the ground will emit a nasal, buzzing call referred to as a peent, to attract females. He then takes flight and ascends 200 or 300 feet. All the while, musical twittering sounds are made by the male’s wings. Afterwards, he will spiral or zigzag back to the ground while producing a liquid chirp.
The Talk & Walk event will begin with a brief presentation on the American Woodcock in Masker’s Barn. The presentation is followed by a short walk of approximately 1,000 feet to a nearby meadow, where participants can listen for telltale sounds of the Woodcock.
Participants are advised to dress warmly, wear sturdy shoes and bring a flashlight.
For more information on activities and programs in Union County parks, visit ucnj.org/parks or call 908-527-4900.
Complete details about the Deserted Village are available at ucnj.org/dv.
For quick links to all Union County environmental programs and activities, including the popular Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Park programs and the Peregrine Falcon Cam, visit The Green Connection at ucnj.org/green-connection.
For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including free vaccination, free testing and other support services, visit ucnj.org/covid19. General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.
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