What a magical experience it is to listen to woodland gradually fall silent as night approaches. As part of the BTO’s survey of breeding woodcock this Spring, I duly turned up at dusk to my allotted woodland survey point to stand and look up from the glade while listening out for the strange calls of this enigmatic bird. A cuckoo called from another part of the wood; but gradually the willow warblers, robins, thrushes and blackbirds ceased singing their symphony as the sun set. A badger came bustling down the trail, only to stop and ‘test the air’ with its nose about three metres from where I was standing stock still before beating a hasty retreat; a while later a fox crossed quickly over the trail and a roe deer barked from the depths of the wood.
As it grew darker, several bats emerged to tackle the abundance of flying insects and the querulous ‘oooh…ooh’ of a male tawny owl was answered by sharp ‘kewick’ calls as another owl responded. Then, out of the gloaming, a woodcock flew over the clearing uttering its weird croaks and squeaks. Altogether I recorded five ‘events’ including one more sighting, but whether this involved the same bird five times (possibly) or five different birds (less likely) is difficult to tell.