They fly as harbingers of early spring where wet woodlands meet wild fields dressed in the brown stubble of last year's grasses. As darkness settles in, as the cardinals cease their evening song and spring peepers begin theirs, these comical little birds with their large eyes and long beaks waddle from the woods into the fields, positioning themselves for the moment when, as the light fades, their longings launch them skyward in an wide arc above the earth, exuberant in the mating flights that only happen this time of year.
The woodcocks are surely more patient than I am. At least there is no indication that they are fretting at the grayness of the sky or the browns and tans of the landscape. They spend their solitary days probing the soft, wet earth for worms and attending to survival. And then, as the days slowly lengthen, their brains and bodies respond to the onset of mating hormones, and the males begin to fly in what seems such glad abandon, earthbound no longer, suddenly free from the confines of the largely terrestrial life they lead most of the year.
It has been cold again the last few days, too cold for the woodcock's song and sky dance but, soon enough, the temperatures will warm and I will again hear the nasal "peeent" from across the road, declaring that spring, though slow to arrive, will not tarry forever. It is me who needs to learn to wait patiently, not trying to hurry along that over which I have no control or becoming despondent that the winter has seemingly dragged on for so long. Being attentive to the signs I recognize, like the woodcocks flight or the spring peeper's tentative calls, enable me to open myself to what is, even in the midst of grumpy moments. And for this I am exceedingly grateful.
If you would like to know more about American Woodcocks, you can go to this link from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.