Monday, July 23, 2012

Photographing American Woodcocks and a Shorebird Challenge

About a week ago my brother, Eric, and I were birding at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis when some other birders mentioned that they had found a couple of American Woodcock feeding in the open on a mudflat in the park. We went down to check it out and found the two birds right where they told us. We were hoping to photograph them, but there were too many people around for us to get decent photos.

We went back to the park on Thursday, hoping that the woodcocks would still be there and that they would be in a good position for photographs. We found one woodcock on the mudflats, but it ran for the woods immediately when we walked up. After scanning the rest of the mudflats for awhile, the woodcock came back out into the open and seemed pretty comfortable with us being near it. Eric slowly moved closer and closer and I followed a few minutes later. We settled into position and waited for the woodcock to move in towards us.

Surprisingly, the woodcock moved in extremely close and seemed completely oblivious to the fact that we were sitting there watching it. We spent the next 30 minutes photographing the bird feeding and even catching a worm. Below are the best of the shots that we took during our time with the woodcock.
American Woodcock
The woodcock probing for food in the mud.
 American Woodcock
American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)
One of Eric's shots showing the American Woodcock with a worm.
In addition to the woodcocks, we found that shorebird migration is well underway in Indy. We saw five Stilt Sandpipers as well as some of the more common shorebirds, including Least, Pectoral, Spotted, and Solitary Sandpipers.

To prepare everyone for the arrival of even more shorebirds, I’ve created a little quiz on the silhouettes of shorebirds. Can you classify these silhouettes into these groups?

• Large Plovers
• Small Plovers
• Yellowlegs
• Curlews
• Large Peeps
• Small Peeps
• Dowitchers
• Phalaropes

Shorebird Silhouettes

You can use this post on Nutty Birder to help you figure out the groups and then find the answers to the quiz here!



  1. Hi there - the pictures of the woodcock are great - seems the view you had were about a million times better than the ones I've had. They are such a splendid bird.

    Stewart M.

    PS: it’s not really clear from my pictures, but one of the crocs was slowly moving into the water! We left less slowly!

  2. Very cool Rob. The woodcock is one of the species still eluding me. I have to confess that I have not spent as much time as I should have with shorebirds. Maybe its due to the lack of a spotting scope. But, looking at your silhouettes, I feel I am at least in the right genus.

  3. Nice work Rob! Woodcocks are such fun and funky birds with their big spacey eyes and pitter-pattering, they always look to me like they've lost their glasses and are trying to recover them.

  4. Woodcocks are such eccentric looking birds.I have never been able to get good shots of them; yours are fantastic!

  5. What a cool post! I love the woodcock shots and I love the little quiz at the end! What fun! Shorebirds are so challenging and I am still learning them. Your silhouette quiz is a fun challenge for me. I need to study them a bit more, and will come by and check out my answers later!

  6. Wonderful post Rob! Woodcocks are awesome birds.

  7. How fortunate that you were to observe these cool birds. Wonderful photographs! I was thrilled to see four Woodcocks from afar once. I wish my images were as fantastic as yours.