There is a full moon today, starting at 09.29, 30th November 2020. Did you know that in Britain the first full moon in November is known as the Woodcock Moon?
Sometimes it is known as the Beaver Moon, but in Britain it has traditionally been called the Woodcock Moon. It is named after one of my favourite birds the European Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), whose amazing 360-degree vision and cryptic camouflage make this an endearing bird. It is active at dusk and dawn, and I admit that the term used to describe this unusual habit is perhaps my favourite word in the English language: crepuscular.
Woodcocks are native to Britain, and many birds choose to live in our woods and forests all year round. However, we also receive a massive influx of hundreds of thousands of birds each winter. Some estimates put a number of between 700,000 and 1,200,000 arriving during November, December, and January. They migrate from the frozen steppes of northern Europe, including the Baltic States, Russia, and Siberia. Traditionally, among the shooting community — the woodcock is a prized quarry because of the difficulty of shooting one given its rapid zig-zag flight — the mass arrival of birds is called the ‘Fall’. The Game & Wildlife Trust have launched an appeal to learn more about these elusive birds via a satellite tagging programme.
Traditional tales also tell of our smallest bird, the goldcrest, hitching a ride on the backs of woodcocks. As usual, nature inspired my creativity, and I’ve written a new short story which be published in my next collection of environmental tales. The short story is a little bawdy which I won’t explain here, but it ends with this poem:
A mere five thousand miles to fly;
Rising from the Russian steppe,
And guided by a crest of gold,
To fall upon the English cold,
On the night of the Woodcock Moon.
From Woodcock Moon, Tall Trees Short Stories Vol21, coming spring 2021.
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