Not exactly a beast in the woods but…

Today we had the end of season barbeque where each department presents what they’ve accomplished for the year. I presented the brood survey portion of the power point. It was a pretty good feeling to share all that we’ve done this summer.

We then had a barbeque complete with hotdogs and hamburgers - I still haven’t tried those odd, red hotdogs that are so unique to Maine - and took the annual group picture that will later hang in the YCC building. It was a really nice way to wrap up the season.

This week the SCA interns have mostly been checking Woodcock traps on our own, giving us an even greater sense of independence. I’m still amazed at what’s happened this summer. I’m not exactly a beast in the woods and I do get lost on occasion, but compared to how utterly clueless I was when I first got here, I’d say I’ve come a long way! Perhaps I’ll return to the woods, perhaps not, but either way, being smacked in the forehead by a low-lying limb or smelling the piney scent of the forest after it rains will stay with me for a long time.

We recently started spotlighting for Woodcock, which requires a very dark night, usually during or around a heavy rain. Basically, you go out with a strong spotlight and search for Woodcock on the ground. When you find one, you shine the light on it as a stunning effect and then another person slowly approaches and catches it in a net. You then get the bird out of the net and complete the usual banding procedures.

The reason spotlighting requires pretty intense conditions is so that if we flush a bird and it tries to fly away, the spotlight will confuse it and the darkness will be so complete that there is no horizon to fly toward. Therefore, and theoretically, the Woodcock will be forced to land again, close to where we originally saw them. It’s actually really fun, though it’s hard to get the motivation to do it at night after a full day of work.

I’ve gone out twice so far, and it’s really the only activity where you’re guaranteed to catch a Woodcock. I love the intensity when we get a bird in the spotlight and I’ve got the net, poised and ready to drop. You have to be aware of the position of the net and the bird’s reactions, otherwise you could potentially force a really skittish bird to fly away. The other night, four of us went out and caught five birds in two hours- not bad for amateurs!