Searching for Skydancers

Allegheny National Forest Visitors BureauBRADFORD, PA – May 4, 2018 – PEENT! Silence… PEENT! Silence for another five seconds… and then PEENT! The low, raspy peent could be heard all the way across the shrubby field. And then we could hear the “musical, soft twitter” of wings as the male woodcock landed back down in the field after climbing over 100 yards in the twilight sky to impress the female woodcock hidden nearby.

This was our first woodcock of the evening. We went on to find three more ‘singing’ males. Other volunteers had similar experiences on the other five routes being surveyed that evening.

And that’s what sixteen dedicated hunters and bird watchers did this week in the Clermont area, McKean County, to help the United States Geological Service update their woodcock singing ground surveys every year. “We run six routes out of the Clermont area every year,” said John Dzemyan, Woodcock Singing Ground Coordinator for the Allegheny Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society. Similar surveys are being run by other volunteers all across the Eastern United States at the same time every year. It provides a reliable baseline of population data that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service uses as one index to help set harvest seasons on woodcock.

If anybody wants to help in future annual surveys, please contact John Dzemyan at

Every year the volunteers meet around 6:00 pm for an outdoor picnic tailgate style and go over the protocol forms. This year we feasted on homemade bear and leek sausage.

Around 7:15 pm all the volunteers drive to their respective three-mile survey route, usually within five miles of Clermont. Surveys begin near sunset times which change daily dependent upon the exact date the survey routes are run. Other wildlife observed during the routes this year were coyotes, plenty of deer, rabbits, turkeys, barred owl, and a saw whet owl.

This year’s volunteers were: Garrett Baker, Lori Coffman, Mike Corbett, Brennon Donovan, John Dzemyan, Len and Jody Groshek, Mary Hosmer, Dennis McKeirnan, Dave Nesbitt, Bonnie and John Orr, Lori Pettigrew, Dave Putnam, JoAnn Schiafone, and Brenda Walker.

The Ruffed Grouse Society was founded in 1961 to promote and increase awareness of young forest management and to maintain suitable habitat that supports healthy populations of ruffed grouse, woodcock, deer and many songbird species that depend on forest diversity to survive and prosper.