These elusive little woodland dwellers are already the stuff of legend and folklore, and the fact that they have been known for centuries to carry their young in flight only adds to their aura. Colin believes he has witnessed this once, in the New Forest, but he has no conclusive proof. Some lucky observers have seen it, however… or they know someone who has.
Here is an extract from our book, ‘Woodcock and Pin-feather Painting’, published in 2012:
“There are many reported instances of a woodcock carrying its young while in flight. The purpose of this behaviour is unclear: perhaps the bird is taking its chicks away from danger, or transporting them to more fertile feeding grounds.
Reliable observers, including gamekeepers, have described seeing an adult bird gathering a youngster under its wing and then taking off with the chick either held between its feet or pressed against its breast with its beak. Some people have seen two chicks being carried at once, while others have watched as the bird transported its young individually, returning repeatedly to collect those that had been left behind.”
For the first time, Colin has produced a painting of a woodcock carrying a chick, against the backdrop of a glorious summer woodland. The picture has been painted with a woodcock’s pin-feather. Entitled ‘The Secret’, it has been done in sepia, giving a lovely mellow feel like an antique engraving.
Since the painting was finished, a lady who has seen a woodcock carrying its young has told us that Colin has captured it “perfectly”.
You can watch ‘The Secret’ in progress on Colin’s YouTube video. (We are still learning about producing videos! It’s hard not to laugh!)
Colin is releasing ‘The Secret’ as a limited edition print, and some of the proceeds will be donated to the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to support their important research projects into woodcock migration and population.
Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) are one of the most elusive game birds, inhabiting quiet woodlands by day and venturing out to feed in soft, moist ground by night. There is a resident population in Britain, and in autumn these are joined by thousands of migrants from Europe, particularly Russia and Scandinavia.
Since 1991, Colin has been painting pictures of woodcock using pin-feathers from the birds’ wings. This is a traditional skill that is known to have been used by artists in the 1800s, and possibly earlier.
In 2012, Colin and I did some research into the history of this little-known technique, and we published our findings in our book, ‘Woodcock and Pin-feather Painting’.
If you’d like to know more about woodcock, take a look at an earlier feature: ‘Cockshut – lost in the shadows of twilight‘.
All images and photos © copyright Colin Woolf