Union County invites residents to witness the American woodcock

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Bird watchers and nature fans are invited to join Pete Axelrod of Wild Birds Unlimited for Union County’s annual “Woodcock Talk & Walk” events. The first will be held on Wednesday, March 18, at 6:15 p.m. in Lenape Park in Cranford, and the second will be held on Wednesday, March 25, at 6:30 p.m. at Watchung Stables in the Watchung Reservation.

“The American woodcock requires very specific habitats, so it’s a great source of pride that Union County’s preserved open spaces can be a home for this unusual bird,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “The annual talk and walk events help our residents and visitors see and hear the value of local nature conservation.”

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 unusual and elusive American woodcock.
The American woodcock is known by a variety of 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, which provide 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.”
As part of their mating ritual, males on the ground emit nasal, buzzing calls, referred to as “peents,” to attract females. Males then ascend 200 or 300 feet, while their wings generate musical twittering sounds. Finally, they spiral or zigzag back to the ground, while producing liquid chirps.
The Lenape Park event will be held at the old Trap and Skeet field house near the main entrance off Kenilworth Boulevard and County Road 509 in Cranford. The park entrance is between Dorset Drive and Nomahegan Road.

The Watchung Reservation event will take place at the Deserted Village. The group will meet at Masker’s Barn, located at 13 Cataract Hollow Road in Berkeley Heights. GPS users should follow the road to the end.

Both events are free and open to adults and children age 10 and up, provided they are accompanied by an adult. Participants are advised to dress warm and bring a flashlight.

To register, email the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation at atbkelly@ucnj.org.
For more information on activities and programs in Union County parks, and to find out about volunteering with Union County Adopt-a-Park, call 908-527-4900 or visit ucnj.org/parks.

For quick links to all Union County environmental and sustainability programs, visit the Green Connection online at www.ucnj.org/green-connection.