This amazing sighting deserves a special blog indeed as the bird is special and a 'close to my heart' species . I have spent a lot of time, well years to be precise to get a great picture of this fidgety bird and finally my dream came true.... keep reading for I know you will love it.
This chapter started six years ago when I first saw Woodcock in Yuksom at a cardamom field. Little did I know that photographing this beauty would be such a tough task. Believe me even after trying for 6 hours straight, in one day and searching for weeks, didn't yeild any satisfactory result. There came a time when I just gave up, until one day.... I shall come to that part a little later ? allow me to create a little bit of suspense here ....
Understand my plight here ... I started visiting Khonoma in South Nagaland almost every year since 2014 and I have had the opportunity to behold this lovely bird in Alder plantation area, a couple of times but just that nothing more than that... I saw but couldn't photograph.
I visited Nagaland again in February 2019 and guess what? yes, I again got to see it but alas! no fruitful outcome...as soon as I raised my camera to click a beautiful picture of the bird... woooossshhh... the bird flew away and vanished in some bush thicket.
Now comes the interesting part... On 9th April '19, Our Mishmi tour was going on... as everyone decided to have lunch at a roadside eatery, we stopped for a while during non-birding hours (around 12:30 PM - 1 PM). I was just exploring a little around the eatery and enjoy the scenery behind. I heard a noise coming from the nearby swampy area, as though something was moving, I thought to myself it was some mammal or something else... anyhow, I decided to move a little ahead to check what it was and what I saw next was completely not what I expected it to be.... The Woodcock was right in front of me foraging in the marshy lowland and it should be mentioned that nobody can walk down till the place where the bird was foraging so you see it was quite a secluded place and the entire stretch of area, say around a few hundred square yards or more was full of sewer water only .... good enough for me though.. I got a pretty great chance to photograph the bird... anyway, moving on... the first question the came to my mind on seeing the bird was, is it a Solitary Snipe? because the bird is commonly seen in Tawang or Paro. But a little closer look cleared by doubt the bird was bigger with black barrings on the head. Hurrah!! Without any further delay I called the participants and we all clicked lovely pictures of this birds..
It has great camouflaging ability with the surrounding and goes undetected...
Prefers to forage mostly in inaccessible areas - In Khonoma, it is seen in Alder forests, the slopes / gradient don't allow people to get to it. In Yuksom, where this bird is frequently sighted is a marshy area also inaccessible and characterized by an incredibly tough terrain. Here in Mishmi, the entire stretch of swampy area was a barrier that's why we got distant shots of the bird.
It is a fidgety bird and flies away whenever you try to click a picture. In case you keep a good distance from the bird, you might be able to get a few good shots.
In Europe it is hunted rampantly therefore its consternation is understandable, it is absolutely terrified of human beings... we understand the poor bird's inhibitions... The fear can be said rather to be genetic that keeps the bird away from humans completely.
It is also a crepuscular bird i.e. it remains active mostly active during dusk, night or at dawn. I sighted the bird in broad daylight so I have to say that this was indeed an experience of a lifetime and was pretty exceptional.
Challenges will come and go but sighting of such a tough and graceful subject, well it allowed me to make a video of it too, deserves special mention and certainly is something pretty memorable and worth cherishing.
Take a look at the video documentation of Eurasian Woodcock from Mishmi Hills near 65 Kilo.