This is the time of year when we make our annual trek to our local "peenting grounds". We discovered our very own peenting ground about five years ago and have been coming here each mid-March every since then. It is our best time of year to hear and to get a glimpse of the woodcocks. They are gearing up but not yet at the peak of their "peenting passion".
We arrive at the grounds near dusk--the robins, the red-winged blackbirds, the song sparrows, and the eastern towhees are still singing. A red-tailed hawk flies from one tree to another perch. A perch that sits high and in the corner of the field. We stand quietly and enjoy the evening chorus. A chorus frog chimes in from time to time. As each minute ticks by the singing grows less and less as one by one the songsters drop out for the evening. It grows quieter and dimmer by the minute and the peace of the evening surrounds us. Finally, when all is about quiet, there is one final stir--that is the red-tailed hawk. He lets out his last "scree" of the day, takes flight, circles once, and is gone. All is now silent. We know that the show is about to begin. It is several minutes later when we hear the first nasally "peent". Several more minutes tick by and we hear out second "peent". The third "peent" comes a little closer to the last and the forth even closer. It is as if they have to wind themselves up. Once they are wound up they then have to unwind and that is when you see them take up high into the air, higher and higher they go, and in arches and circles and the whole time twittering on high! And when the peak is reached it is like they are finally wound out and come twittering straight down! What a show--what a sound! We continue to watch until we can no longer see in the dark. We can still hear though. We stand awhile longer listening in the darkness--listening and rolling in our own thoughts!
My thoughts are of these "peenting grounds" and how they have changed over just the few years that I have been visiting them. Each year more of the open areas, the open areas where the woodcocks like to start the show from, are closing in more and more as small trees and other growth fill in the gaps. I see the irony of wanting to let areas grow and return to nature and of also wanting to hold onto this area just as it is with small growth trees here and there that man created by clear cutting to begin with. At the rate of growth I see here I am not sure how many more years the woodcocks will call this home. I go home on this evening thankful for yet another year, but knowing also that as this area is reclaimed more and more by nature it will be called home by a whole new group of critters.