One of two of my friend’s cats brought a real surprise into their house the other day. No, not the usual offering of a shrew, chipmunk, or common garden bird, but, this time it came in with a real oddball catch, which was, fortunately, still very much alive. My wife was visiting them at the time and I got an urgent call to get over there as soon as possible to see this unusual bird. What is it?, I asked, but the description was not the usual one and she spoke of a long beak and a body being much bigger than a Robin. I’ll be right over, I said, and grabbing three bird books and my camera on the way out of the door, I arrived to find there was quite a big cardboard box on the floor of their solarium, with the bird inside. OK then let’s get a look at it then, but the bird had other ideas and quickly darted away into a corner. Using a towel to cover its head and body, my friend picked it up as gently as he could. (Who says watching Hope for Wildlife is a waste of time!!?). Anyway, he did just that and I managed to get some pictures of it in order to identify it more accurately. At first we just guessed at it being a Snipe, but on further investigation, the head and back feather markings pointed to it being an American Woodcock. These long beaked birds are mainly nocturnal and use their long beaks to probe soft muddy ground for, amongst other things, grubs, larvae and worms. Our friends have a fish pond and a small river flows past the bottom of their garden. These, combined with a very grassy field of young re-forested Pine trees, are a likely habitat for such a bird to live in and nest. It was probably in this area of their garden that the cat caught the unfortunate bird! Normally I would have cursed what it had done and been very upset about the situation, but, had it not done this, we would never have seen such a beautiful bird up close, let alone at all!
This is a very selfish attitude on my part, and I am hanging my head in shame, for being able to show you this lovely bird in such circumstances! Luckily it survived the experience, which not many caught birds do, and by bringing this bird into your lives I am not condoning in any way what damage to our bird population our lovely sweet domestic cats do. Many bird populations are taking quite a hit these days ,from man-made contrivances with domestic cats adding quite a large figure to their decimation too. Please don’t encourage your cat to hunt down birds and don’t praise them when they do bring home such a prize for you, – thanks!!
Stay safe and well,