The Monmouth County Audubon Society will sponsor an evening field trip to Big Brook County Park in search of Timberdoodles, or American Woodcock, on Saturday, March 14, at 6:30 pm. Participation is free.
Located on County Road 520 in Marlboro, the original 379-acre parcel of land that established Big Brook Park was formerly used as farmland for patients at the Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital, located across the street. Named for Big Brook, which drains into the Swimming River Reservoir, the park contains forest made up of young wetland and maturing American beech, white oak, tulip poplar and hickory trees. Perhaps the park is better known for its rolling fields; made up of grasses, goldenrod and other perennials that provide a contiguous field habitat for butterflies, birds and other wildlife.
One bird species in particular is the target for this trip: the American Woodcock. American Woodcock spend most of their time hidden in fields and on the forest floor, where they probe for earthworms. On spring nights, however, their priorities change, and attracting a mate becomes more important than remaining camouflaged. Males advertise for a mate with a buzzy “peent” call. That vocalization signals the start of one wacky courtship display. The male takes flight and climbs from 50 to 100 yards into the air. He descends, zigzagging and banking while singing a liquid, chirping song. This high spiraling flight produces a melodious twittering sound as air rushes through the male's outer primary wing feathers. This display is truly like nothing else in nature and is why the group is making a special trip at dusk to experience it.
The group will meet at 6:30 pm in the parking lot of the park, located just off County Road 520.
The trip is open to both members and non-members of the Monmouth County Audubon Society, and participation is free. Advance registration is not required. Participants should dress in weather-appropriate clothing, keeping in mind that temperatures drop quickly toward evening. Binoculars are recommended, and a field guide may be helpful.