"This mysterious hermit of the alders, this recluse of the boggy thickets, this wood nymph of crepuscular habits is a common bird and well distributed in our Eastern States, widely known, but not intimately known. Its quiet retiring habits do not lead to human intimacy." - Arthur Cleveland Bent on the American Woodcock, 1927. See Wordless Wednesday, below. And be it noted: photographing a woodcock in flight is about as easy as catching one with a baseball glove. . .
One must love both Bent and his classical natural history prose, and the woodcock and his "quiet retiring habits."
Some fine rare birds were discovered this Thanksgiving weekend, like Ash-throated Flycatchers, Western Kingbirds, and Western Tanagers, plus kittewakes et. al. offshore. But determined both to walk off Thanksgiving calories and to try to meet widely known birds more intimately, I resisted the very strong temptation to chase the rare in favor of creeping through "boggy thickets."
How much do you walk off trail? I confess to doing it all the time, a habit acquired during a farm-boy-hunter-trapper youth, and prefer it. Never where regulated against, of course - but recluse paths lead to reclusive birds.
It was a warm Thanksgiving weekend, one where Snow Buntings, dragonflies, and Buckeye and the last lingering Monarch Butterflies shared the same space. I'm pretty sure I saw my last Osprey of 2011 last weekend, too - pretty sure only because these things are changing. Consider this: I remember blithely telling NJ birding dean Rich Kane about an Osprey I saw at "Brig," (Forsythe NWR) one early December day about 25 years ago. Rich said, "Really?" Enthusiastically - and, I now know, with much doubt. Ospreys don't happen in December, or didn't used to. How long will it be until a few Ospreys winter in Cape May every year?