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description only: smallish brown birds with 'whitish rails' on back | Drentse Aa, NL | 10 June 2023 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Unfortunately no recording or photo...

Unidentified bird - Aves indet. 2023-06-10 | Waarneming.nl
I was looking for a way through a mostly dry forest on the banks of a brook in nature reserve De Heest, Drentse Aa, Northern Netherlands. Objective was: to find the River Warbler that was found in the area the night before. A small trail followed the brook and passed through mostly dried mudded spots. Nearby are some elevated grasslands, harvested once a year it seems. The area is usually little visited as the entrance paths are often muddy and partially flooded

At a small crossroads I turned slowly right when I noticed two small balls of brown with whitish lines on the back. They were at 1,5 meter from me.
The moment I noticed them, they sped off in a fairly straight linem revealing not much more than a reddish rump or tail.
I immediately thought of Common Quail. They are recorded in the direct vicinity every now and then in summer. Yet what were they doing in this forested area? Hiding for the day? Hiding from the summer sun?
I am a bit stumped... I would love them to be Quail as I don't think I have ever seen them (all my records are singing birds)

But is it safe to put them down as Quail? I would think both Partridge and Common Pheasant are candidates but the former is grey not brown, 2nd is bigger and sandy coloured, and long tailed in all plumages...if i am not mistaken.

Common Pheasant is a common game bird here too, Partridge is highly uncommon these days but does occur every now and then at a few km from my spot.

Waht would you say? and what were they doing there (apart from seeking cover from me)

Hope to hear of you
That's a shot in the dark, but a juvenile Woodcock??? Back pattern about right (Juvenile similar to adults but with tips of primary coverts broad buff edged from Blasco Zumeta's species account: Eurasian Woodcock - Scolopax rusticola - Media Search - Macaulay Library and eBird), and American Woodcock juveniles can fly for a short distance from the age of two weeks: American Woodcock (even though I guess that by 'sped off' you meant running). The rump and tail colour would fit. I've never seen a Woodcock, so I may be wrong.

EDIT: Or maybe Snipe?
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Thanks 01, they were two smallish balls of feathers, but they flew up right past me and were gone before i could blink more or less.
Young woodcock...interesting, i did not think of that...will have a look

With balls of feathers i don't mean they were young birds perse, just compact feathered shapes with straight length lines on the back...trusting their camouflage until the very last moment, then flying off in a straight line...not sure if they flew up or just out of sight.
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Roughly how large? The size of a bunting or bigger? Although size is difficult to judge, I think these are pretty easy parameters to go on to narrow it down a bit. Did you catch a rough silhouette?
Despite your detailed description, I still don't have picture of the habitat from which they were flushed. The obvious first thoughts are snipe and woodcock.
some attempts at answering back questions:
on size: It is difficult to say something about the size, but the two birds seem to have been about 15 cm (half my shoe-size) but they were clearly no songbirds or buntings. Rather, plump oval birds when sat on the forest floor.
It is tempting to say, the size, shape and feathering of a Quail as that was my first hunch, but then I thought, what are Quail doing in a dark, moist wooded area?

About the terrain, I did give a description in post#1: "a mostly dry forest on the banks of a brook"
To add to this I will give impressions of the exact terrain (Google maps and photos taken in the same area by others)

(very close to my spot)
(a few meters from my spot: fairly unspoiled meadow)

Would snipe and woodcock freeze on the spot-side by side!*- on the approach of danger?
(That is a question maybe only bird surveyers can answer...or....hunters)

*Woodcock is of course well known for startling you to bits when being flushed on a winter forest floor when you almost step on them, but in pairs?



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Sorry housecrow, I don't seem to be able to help anymore. I'm really not very experienced with these birds in the field. Based on what you've said, I think woodcock would be likely. Apparently, when flushed, they will take off in a zig-zag then land elsewhere.

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