This is another species that is well represented in and around Santon Downham, but easily overlooked because of its behaviour. It is in fact a representative of the group of birds called waders, most of which will be found on coasts and estuaries, feeding on invertebrates in the mud. The Woodcock is an exception, being only found on the coast or near estuaries when they migrate - and then it is usually continental birds flying to the UK for winter, as our own population is resident throughout the year.

Woodcocks breed and feed in woodland, not in clearings. They prefer moist, not too dense woodlands, the tree composition being of lesser importance. Being mainly crepuscular (active at dusk) and incredibly well camouflaged it is unlikely that you will come across them on the ground during the day. They have been a 'game' bird for centuries, and old maps show that the small patch of woodland behind and downhill from the village hall was called Woodcock Covert, reflecting its use for breeding birds to shoot on the old estate.

If they are extremely difficult to see on the ground or during the day, they can be easily seen when they fly in the late evening. Their display involves a territorial flight, referred to as roding, around a large area, often over clearings, when their peculiar grunt and whistle call draws attention to their presence. They flap slowly around a circuit on broad, rounded wings, with their long bills pointing down at an angle. Any time from early spring through to late summer can reveal roding birds, but still, clear evenings in May, June and July are best. Just occasionally, you might see one in an unusual situation. I have seen them sitting on the road near the village green on more than one occasion.