The young woodcock, Walter, looked around and tried to catch his breath. Everything looked just as he hoped and dinner should be easy to find. A short while before, as he flew down the valley with the wind backing around to the southwest, he started to look for a place to wait out a fair breeze. Off to the east he noticed alders and young poplars on a gentle south-facing slope. The place certainly looked inviting.
Waddling along the hillside, heading neither uphill nor down, he took in the new surroundings. The same varieties of fern grew there as in his home turf back in Canada, and the moss covering the rocks looked familiar. The gray alders were pretty much bare, but the golden leaves on the young poplars glowed in the morning sun. A lone apple tree, crowded on all sides by alders and poplar, defiantly remained green.
Cocking his head he listened. Sure enough, the worms weren’t particularly deep and pickings would be easy. Plunging his bill into the soil the tip felt the soft flesh of Lumbricus terrestris, his favorite meal and a welcome treat. Extracting the worm from the soil he held it aloft, admired the tasty morsel, then swallowed the protesting critter. Life certainly couldn’t get much better.
Foraging along the hillside, he came to a thicket of twisted thorny vines, which he didn’t recognize without their black raspberries. They certainly would provide protection from overhead, but if he ever had to escape up through them it might prove impossible. Deciding to not take a chance, he detoured slightly up the hill toward a second old apple tree.
The slightly damper ground beneath the ancient twisted tree proved rich with worms and he fed with abandon, until an apple dropped to the ground and startled him. Looking up he noticed a ruffed grouse sitting among the branches.
The grouse pecked at the soft flesh of another apple, oblivious to Walter’s presence.
What snotty birds those grouse are, thought Walter. They think they are the king of game birds. Where do they get off with that idea?
Walter hated the way those ostentatious showoffs took flight, with wings thundering and making such a raucous. Why couldn’t they learn a little class, creating music as they took to the air, like a civilized woodcock does?
Walter took two steps to the side, in case the second apple fell, and then yelled, “Hey! Don’t you see me down here?”
The grouse glanced his way and then went back to picking at the apple.
Snob, thought Walter, and he waddled on. I hope some goshawk makes dinner of that snot.
After passing under a cluster of ferns Walter stepped out into an open area beneath poplar trees about the same diameter as he.
“Wow!” he said. And immediately wished he hadn’t vocalized the thought.
There, in the middle of the opening, sat a large female woodcock.
“Excuse me,” he apologized. “I didn’t expect to find anyone here.”
He admired her big round body, and the way her bill stuck way out in front. And that sexy eye, only one faced in his direction. And her colors…such beautiful colors that blended perfectly with the surrounding soil. She was certainly something.
She looked his way, but didn’t smile.
“My name is Walter. Are you new around here?”
The female woodcock turn away, jammed her bill into the soil, and yanked a white grub out of the ground, which she promptly swallowed.
After giving her head a little shake, she said, “No, just passing through.”
Her aloof attitude put Walter off a bit, but he wasn’t about to give up. “Me too,” he said. He scuffed a foot on the ground and summoned his courage. “Maybe we could travel together.”
“No. We’re doing a girls-night-out sort of thing tonight, or whenever the wind changes direction.”
If Walter had shoulders they would have sagged. “Okay, well nice to meet you.”
As he wandered on he realized she never even offered her name. Oh well, the next best thing to a new girlfriend was going hunting. Oh heck, he thought, hunting is a lot more fun than some of the aggravating girls he had met.
Where might there be more worms?