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A night of strong winds out of the north and a morning that dawned calm and sunny provided near perfect conditions for a drop migration movement. Never anyone to squander an opportunity, I grabbed binoculars and headed out to prove my theory.

Along the river trail the temperature was crisp, the birding activity somewhat on the slow side. Consequently of the windy night, leaves were plentiful on the trail. Even walking softy, the crunching leaves made hearing bird song a bit tricky. However, as sunlight seeped through the trees, warming the undergrowth, the chirps and cheeps picked up. On the migrant side, a merry band of American Robins were busily swapping tree-top perches for the chance to scurry around on the forest floor. I watched them for some minutes and thought they appeared particularly congenial to one another, chattering back and forth like attending a superb social occasion. The meals source should have been plentiful.

A brief distance down the trail, I detected five Hermit Thrushes, going quietly about their business. By their manner and demeanor, you would never know these were of exactly the same family since the robins. Their behavior was unobtrusive, they moved slowly, without song or call. As I watched the thrushes, I became alert to twittering in the tree tops above me. Looking up, I saw the nervous wing flicking that may only be kinglets. They certainly were not singing, just whispering their lisping notes. After a few minutes, I obtained binocular views and identified both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets. It amuses me to watch kinglets as they continually flitter and fidget within their restless quest for insects.

As I neared the greatest bend in the river, woods gave solution to weedy fields and I was rewarded by lots of migrant sparrows. Probably the most obvious and the best number were White-throated Sparrows. Even though they certainly were actively feeding, there is no dearth of clear whistled song as "Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody" rang out over and over. If you reside north of the U.S. border, the white-throats sing "Oh, Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada", approximately I've been told! Regardless of the interpretation, it's delightful and cheery.

A few other migrants were mixed in with the sparrow flock, including White-crowned Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows. Not to be outdone, our resident Song Sparrows might be heard all across the trail. I confess they're certainly one of my favorites because they don't play hide and seek with me. They're an in-your-face bird. Pish or whistle and the Song Sparrow hops front and center to answer together with his 3 note introduction, accompanied by very pleasing musical notes.

Noting that the couple hours had slipped away, I turned to make my way home. I was feeling pretty contented, the normal consequence of the nice bird walk. The gusty winds from yesterday had showered the main sweet bonanza trail with a heavy concentration of leaves, and as I walked along I started initially to shuffle my feet through them. Soon, I was kicking leaves with abandon, just having a great time of it. Yea, I was very relaxed. And then, without warning, as I kicked right into a colorful pile of autumn leaves, A FEATHERED BOMBSHELL EXPLODED AT MY FEET!

I'd accidentally disturbed a resting American Woodcock! Exactly what a bonanza! I don't know which people was more startled. I really do know it sure gave my nervous system a twitch. Even with the shock of surprise, it only took a millisecond to identify the bird. One glimpse of the unique chunky shape, round wings, barred head, and killer bill was all it took. I didn't hear the typical twittering wing sound the woodcock probably made as it abruptly flew up, but, the blood pounding through my veins may have dulled the normal flight sounds. What a thrill!

While it isn't rare to see a woodcock along the river trail, it's not a ho-hum bird by any means. An American Woodcock is definitely a bonanza bird for me. The woodcock is nocturnal of course, but I've seen many wandering around in the daylight. On the river trail, I've only seen them in the shaded, shallow gullies that run near the trail. These gullies collect rain, which forms temporary rivulets. Because the water evaporates, it leaves muddy areas. These soft, moist spots provide ideal habitat for hungry woodcocks, who feed by poking their long, flexible bills in to the soft earth in search of goodies.

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