It was an odd experience a couple of nights ago to hear a strangely familiar croaking sound ringing across the hill while lamping foxes. The noise came persistently through the moonless darkness, and while I knew that I had heard that sound before, I just couldn’t place it. Snipe drummed and a tawny owl bawled in the conker trees by the farm gate. The sound was almost amphibian in its tone, but held a sort of musical wetness that was much more like a bird. Whatever it was, it was moving in a huge circle back and forth over the low ground by the forest – and then it hit me – it was a roding woodcock.
The last time I saw a woodcock roding was 2005, when I happened to find myself sitting beneath the flightline of a displaying male. He came round and round like a hornby train, flapping slowly and interspersing his croaks with a slappy little whistle. Over the years, the precise detail of the sound had faded, so it was hardly surprising that I didn’t recognise it straight off when I heard it in the darkness.
From what I can gather, some woodcock do display after dark, so the case is now closed. It’s a buzz to think that woodcock are breeding on the Chayne, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for them over the summer.