Not quite a Hoopoe

It’s just natural to want to see interesting wildlife in your garden, isn’t it?

Woodcock in a Derby garden

Many years ago a friend of mine had said that she would die happy if she managed to have a Hoopoe visit their UK garden. Well, it’s never happened, of course, but last week I think she achieved a good second-best.

It’s been pretty cold and snowy here in England for the last week. Our own garden was visited by a female pheasant, but my friend beat that hand’s-down. She emailed to say that she had a Woodcock in her suburban Derby garden. It seemed pretty unlikely, but then she sent me the photo. Yep, woodcock it was, for sure.

It stayed around for over 24 hours, lurking under a beech hedge and emerging from time to time to probe for worms with its long bill in the soft soil of her lawn. It really made her day, and she watched it through binoculars from the comfort of her living room sofa. She told me that she watched time and time again as it did a sort of dance, shifting onto one foot and then the other, whilst at the same time waggling its tail like a celebrity dancer from Strictly Come Dancing (Ann Widdecombe?) Presumably this was designed to disturb any worms in the soil which would come closer to the surface, only to be gobbled up by this most unusual of garden visitors.

It’s likely that the bird hadn’t come into the surban garden from nearby woodland, but was a migrant  – a new arrival, escaping even colder conditions on the continent. Perhaps exhausted, it dropped down after its long journey northwards to rest and find food before continuing onwards for a more suitable – or even respectable – habitat for a woodcock. Sadly the bird took flight after a neighbour popped round to see her unusual visitor. In his enthusiasm to take his own picture, he moved too suddenly, and the woodcock took fright immediately, and flew off strongly over the hedges and houses. Let’s hope it found a good place to stay for the winter, and that neither the local cats nor a nearby pair of peregrine falcons get it.

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