I am volunteering to survey some woodland sites this year for the Breeding Woodcock Survey being undertaken by James O’Neill, a student in University College Cork. I visited a nice mixed woodland at Kilfane, just before dark. I arrived a bit later than I had planned. At the woodland entrance three blackbirds were calling agitatedly, seemly unhappy in each other’s company, and a great tit gave a brief song before the woodland quietened down for the night. I walked for about a kilometre to a small woodland clearing that provided a view of a portion of the sky.
A grey squirrel scurried away and the still silhouette of three woodpigeons looked down on me from the branches of a tree 30 or forty feet above. There I waited, straining my ears at every sound that might indicate that woodcock were nearby. A dog barked in the distance and the sound of the nearby stream flowing over rocks was all that could be heard; almost complete silence with not even the movement of branches in the still cool evening.
Straining my neck looking skyward over the tree canopy waiting for a roding woodcock to come into sight, the only movement I detected were a few bats flying close by my head, probably inspecting this strange interloper. Staring at the sky, up at the big dipper, with the moving aircraft like shooting stars across the night sky. Forty-five minutes standing, listening and looking in vain for woodcock as darkness descended was time well spent. I will just have to come back another evening.