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Thanks for a different bird

On Wednesday evening, the hubby and I added a new bird to our life list, the American Woodcock.

Woodcock_2_1 It wasn't really through any effort on our part, unless you count getting up off the couch effort. We were sitting downstairs in the den, waiting for the pumpkin pie, the hubby's annual (and always quite tasty) contribution to our Thanksgiving dinner, to finish baking.

The spices were really filling up the kitchen, so I decided to wander in there and see how much longer I had to wait before sneaking an early slice. As I headed that way, I glanced out the window into the back yard.

It was nearing sunset and our back yard faces east so it was even more shadowy, but I saw something move just to the edge of our patio. I figured it was probably one of the numerous mockingbirds that frequent a nearby patch of shrubs.

But when the bird moved again, it was obviously larger and rounder than a mocker and had a huge bill. I immediately knew this was a bird we hadn't seen before.

While trying to keep an eye on the bird in the fading light, I also began "whisper yelling" to get the hubby's attention. He was sitting on the far end of the couch, reading the paper, and the window was open so I didn't want to be too loud and cause the bird to take off.

A few more slightly louder calls, and the hubby came over. The bird circled a bit and then headed away from our window view. The hubby grabbed the binoculars we keep downstairs and we hurried to the next window to keep an eye on the bird.

As he moved along, he periodically stuck that huge bill completely into the ground. A couple of times he stopped, sitting down for a few seconds before resuming his foraging.

With the binoculars we were able to get a great look at his large head and prominent eyes. The striping on the head was perfectly uniform, the line across his cheek and though the eye as distinct as any professional makeup artist could hope to draw, and his russet sides were brilliant, even in the dimming daylight.

He continued to saunter to the far edge of our yard, dipping into the ground a couple more times before sitting down again, this time under our small magnolia tree. I hurried upstairs to grab the field guides and we quickly identified him as an American Woodcock. The maps confirmed that Austin is just within the bird's winter range.

Finally, he continued his journey, turning down our side yard. We ran back into the house, through it and into the front yard, where we caught up to the Woodcock as he sat down one more time in the mulch under the neighbor's Bradford pear tree.

Woodcock3_2 By now the sun was down, the western sky behind the hills a deep purplish pink. The evening chill was on us, the day's last light almost gone, and back in our kitchen we had a pie that needed checking.

So we reluctantly left the Woodcock to his rest, thankful that he decided to take some time this Thanksgiving Eve to visit our yard.

Woodcock painting (second image) circa 1920 by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. One of 90 bird portraits he painted for the Church and Dwight Company, distributors of Arm and Hammer baking soda.


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