Woodcock. They are a strange and mysterious bird. We have our own resident population which is swelled by migrants from Scandinavia in the winter. When they migrate they apparently fly by the light of a full moon. At this time of year you can hear them croaking like a frog as they fly the woodland rides in the dark.
Their large eyes, positioned on the sides of their head are said to give them virtually 360 degree vision and folklore has it that they 'airlift' their young out of danger by carrying them between their legs.
I can't vouch for vision thing but I can tell you I've witnessed the 'airlifting' on several occassions.
I came across a hen with three chicks as I returned home yesterday evening. The chicks were well grown- just smaller, slightly fluffier versions of mum. When woodcock run they hold their bodies horizontal and totally motionless while their diminuitive feet go 20 to the dozen. Seeing the four of them make good their getaway in this style, along with the Tom-and-Jerry-esque sound effect in my head, had me in stitches.
I must get out more.
But our evenings and nights are filled with sound just now. Oystercatchers, curlew, and snipe are the main perpetrators, with the oystercatchers being particularly insistant (especially around bed-time, it seems.)
There are 4 other nocturnal creatures worth a mention- my colleagues. They've been staking out a couple of fox dens. One pair have given it 3 nights, the others are on their 3rd night tonight and, thus far, it's all been to no avail. Fiendish cunning, these foxes y'know.
I head out in an hour (10pm) to act as a 'floater'. Sometimes an extra spotlight coming from a different direction bamboozles a shy fox into making a tactical error.