Sunday, May 29, 2011

Four Double Yuhs for the Woodcock

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American Woodcock Watercolor ©2011 Sally Wickham

Very little attention is given to the female Woodcock. While the male is buzzing, whistling, circling, dive-bombing and generally showing off, the female is seldom seen. She is one among several chosen by her polygamous suitor. After mating she scratches a slight hollow among some leaves where she lays 3-4 speckled eggs. The brown and black mottling of her plumage blend with ground cover and she becomes almost invisible.
When visible, the American Woodcock is an adorable bird. It is big-headed with large eyes set back on the top of its head—all the better to see predators while manipulating its long sensitive bill in soft earth probing for worms, grubs, and the like.
A natural environment for any species must supply its basic needs. In the case of the Woodcock, it’s four Ws: Worms, Woods, Wetlands, and an open field nearby for Wooing. Logging and human development have decreased the amount of land that is suitable for the Woodcock and their numbers have been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the 1960’s.
Thankfully, conservation efforts are being implemented to restore an ideal community for the woodcock. Habitat management techniques include logging, controlled burning, and planting certain trees and shrubs. Instead of being drained, wetlands are conserved and restored. These efforts simply must be successful because what would we ever do without the American Woodcock?
Read more about the Woodcock (also known as Timber Doodle ) and their habitat management plans at
Words by Linda Lunna Copyright 2011

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The All American Robin

Watercolor Copyright 2011 Sally Wickham

When the Europeans first landed on the shores of America, they were greeted by a bird that looked similar to their beloved wake robin. They called this new bird Robin and even though he was not really related, so he will forever be known by this common name.
The Robin has wormed his way into our hearts and culture in many ways. Robins are plentiful and they are frequent visitors to our parks and our lawns. They are a common sight as they hop and bop in straight lines, then stop, cock their head one way or t'other -- a few tugs later and out pops lowly worm, possibly a yummy lunch for their nestlings. Robins are friendly birds and often build nests where even a child can peer into the round cup of hay and mud. Although some robins spend the winter here in Vermont and other cold locations, robin sightings are one of the sure ways to spell S-P-R-I-N-G.
Robin red-breast might very well be the proverbial early bird. Their musical song is one of the first to be heard in the morning. Speaking of music, the robin provided the inspiration for the song "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along." It was recorded by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Dion & the Belmonts, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Al Jolson, and Dean Martin to name a few.
But let’s not stop there. Don’t forget Bobby Day’s one and only hit song in 1958 --“Rockin’ Robin.” Tweet Tweet Tweet Just in case you did forget, you will certainly remember that Michael Jackson also released the song in an album and as a single. Really. This bird in practically an American icon. It could give the eagle a run for his money.
The robin has already appeared on a two dollar bill in Canada but it is no longer in circulation . Let’s rally around the American Robin and start a movement to have her appear on a dollar bill here. And let’s make it red, white, and robin’s egg blue.

Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011