Looking for woodcock? Check the migration map

Spend a bit of time around hardcore bird hunters — especially those who spend hours afield with their well-trained dogs — and you’ll hear one phrase repeated time and time again.

That phrase: “Flight birds.”

As in, “I don’t think the flight birds are in yet.” Or, “Last year we hit it perfect, just as the flight birds were getting here.” Or, “Where are all the flight birds?”

If you’ve never trailed a pointer through thick brambles, this entire “flight bird” fascination may not make much sense.

Many hunters enjoy spending the day in the woods with their dogs, looking for ruffed grouse and American woodcock. BDN file photo by John Clarke Russ.

In a nutshell, here’s the deal: Woodcock are migratory birds. And when those that live to the north of us decide to pack it in for the winter and begin heading south, they often stop off for a breather in our local forest coverts.

Because of that, a hunter who had no luck hunting a particular spot a day earlier may show up and find that the woods are full of newly arrived woodcock — flight birds — and the hunting can be spectacular.

To find those birds, you’ve got to hunt often, or have a network of hunting buddies who will share information with you.

But that’s not the only way to improve your odds.

Another tool exists, thanks to the Ruffed Grouse Society.

According to a RGS press release, hunters and naturalists are invited to share information that will will be shared on its National American Woodcock Migration Mapping System.

The theory is pretty simple: Enter “activity” reports from your area, based on what you’re seeing in the woods. And all fall and winter, hunters and bird-watchers can use that information to help them on their forays afield.

The RGS produces the mapping system in partnership with Waterfowler.com, and the mapping system has existed since 2006.

The map can be viewed and data added at www.ruffedgrousesociety.org/migration-map

According to the RGS, data will be displayed for 24-hour periods, making the information as up-to-date as possible.

New for this year: A free mobile app that can be used with Android phones: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=eyephonegroup.waterfowler.

If you’re an iPhone user, don’t fret: An app for you is in the works.


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.