Watercock

After my first encounter with Watercocks in many years, I came across another male bird in a different area of my local patch. I heard its loud unmistakable territorial call while I was birding from the main road. I tried using the playback and the bird responded but still kept a good distance from where I was waiting. After some minutes, I gave up and went on to photograph a nesting colony of Baya Weavers not so far away. But before I could get any photo of the weavers, I heard the Watercock’s call coming exactly from the spot where I played the call. I quickly drove back to that spot and noticed its long erecting red knob which was the only thing that stood out among the tall rice. I again used the playback from my car and this time the bird immediately showed its head up.

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Typical view of male Watercock popping its head up among the tall rice.

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Its bright red knob and yellow bill are the only thing that stand out. Here it is giving its loud territorial call.

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It slowly revealed itself little by little. First, it came up really close but stayed hidden among tall rice. Then it began to walk pass and through open tracks in the fields. Finally, it came out and stood in the open to look for the source of playback and briefly gave the territorial call.

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It’s always fascinating to see the bird while calling.

Here you can hear its territorial call and if you look close enough, you’ll see it moving while calling behind the tall rice straws.

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It was totally unexpected that the bird came out and stood in the open for several minutes!

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It later came out to feed in the open field along with this female Greater Painted-snipe.

After getting a series of pleasing shots in the open, I gave it a break and continued birding around the area. I later spotted the bird out in the open feeding along with a beautiful female Greater Painted-snipe, another bird which I’d really like to photograph, in the recently ploughed field. As expected, both of them quickly ran and disappeared into the rice field as soon as I started to approach. I decided to set up a hide at the corner of the open field and waited in hopes of the painted-snipe to come back.

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The painted-snipe didn’t come back but the male Watercock kept calling from the field, so I tried using the playback again and it slowly emerged from the tall rice. Unbelievably, it walked across the open field right in front of the hide and disappeared into the dense field on the other side. It kept calling for a while then flew back into the former field. After it was gone, I quickly packed my stuff and left since I was already too happy with the results. The bird was still calling from the field while I was leaving. I always have to make sure that the birds that I use playbacks with are still staying in their territories when I leave.

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I informed one of my birding friends who wanted to see and photograph Watercock so much, so in the afternoon I led him to the area where I found it. I used the playback but nothing responded at first. It was completely silent for about half an hour. We almost gave up but then I heard a call coming from afar. I tried the playback again but the call didn’t seem to come any closer. We finally decided set up our hides first and try our lucks again from the hides. The bird did finally came really close but kept hiding inside the field as usual. Again, when we almost gave up, it emerged from the field and stood on the open ditch for almost a minute giving us an excellent photo opportunity. It slowly disappeared into the field and kept calling from there. We left the area while it was still calling as usual. Needless to say, we were both exceedingly happy!

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