The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


February 23, 2014

Ruffed Grouse Society adds woodcock option

CAMERON — In another month or so, I’ll be listening for several familiar sounds as I walk the woods. One will be the low muffled drumbeat of a displaying ruffed grouse, a cryptically colored, crested, chicken-like woodland bird. Sometimes I think I feel the drumming more than hear it.

The drone of an accelerating “drumbeat” means a male grouse is advertising his territory to all the hens in the area. From his drumming site, he grips a large fallen log firmly with his feet, braces with his tail, and beats his wings furiously. The rapidly beating wings cause the drumming sound.

Though males drum all year long at any time of day, drumming peaks March through May well before dawn. When a hen arrives at the drumming log in the spring, the male launches his visual display. He fans his tail (which has a broad, black band near its tip), droops his wings, raises his ruffs (the collar of black feathers that encircle his neck), and struts his stuff.  If the hen is impressed, mating occurs, and a new generation results.

Ruffed grouse require a specific arrangement of vegetation. They live in deciduous forests that include small openings and nearby stands of poplars or birches. They roost in conifer trees when they're available, but they also roost in large deciduous trees.

In the spring and summer hens bring their broods to small openings in the woods where insects abound. Openings up to an acre in size may be caused by fire, the blow-down of a large tree, or a conservationist’s chainsaw.

The other sounds I’ll be listening for are those of displaying male American woodcock. The show begins at dusk when woodcock move to open areas where they can be seen and heard. Opening with a series of nasal “peents,” the display culminates with twittering calls and wing whistles as the bird descends from the apex of its display flight, what Aldo Leopold called the “sky dance.”

Woodcock are plump, quail-sized migratory birds. Though classified as shorebirds, woodcock live in the woods.  They usually begin returning in February, but I can always count on them in March.

Large, dark eyes, a long bill, and a plump body are a woodcock’s most prominent features. Their eyes are positioned high and far back on their skulls, so woodcock actually can see above and behind their heads. They use their long, flesh-colored bill to probe moist, soft soil for earthworms and other invertebrates. These “probe holes” and whitewash splash are often seen more than the birds. Since woodcock spend so much time with their bills in the ground, their near 360-degree field of vision helps them detect aerial predators.

Like ruffed grouse, woodcock require a mixture of openings and young forests. And they are well camouflaged. Dappled in shades of brown, woodcock are almost impossible to see as they rest among leaves on the forest floor.

Whether carrying a shotgun or binoculars, there are few greater thrills than flushing one of these cryptically colored upland game birds. And to an unsuspecting beginner, flushing a grouse or woodcock can be unnerving because they often sit tight until almost stepped upon.

Since 1961 the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) has championed these two young forest species, but the grouse always seemed to get top billing. The RGS recently announced the creation of the American Woodcock Society (AWS) as a branch of the RGS.

According to RGS/AWS President and CEO John Eichinger, “The RGS has been a leader in woodcock conservation for decades. The creation of the AWS allows us to expand our work because woodcock are migratory birds. Grouse and woodcock don’t coexist across their entire ranges, especially in the south, so the AWS will allow us to expand our influence into new areas. Furthermore, the work we do benefits not just grouse and woodcock, but all forest wildlife, including many songbirds.”

RGS and AWS membership is open to anyone who values forest wildlife. Dues for each organization are $35 per year, and Eichinger told me a lower priced double membership is planned. For details, call 412-262-4044 or visit           

— Dr. Scott Shalaway can be heard 8 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) or online at Visit Scott’s web site www.drshalawaycom or contact him directly at or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV  26033.


Text Only
  • 071714 Coda and Callie.jpg Coda and Callie’s excellent adventure

    How is it something that you profess to love so much can cause you so much anxiety and grief? No, I’m not talking about dealing with your children (or your spouse). This is worse. This is about dogs. More specifically, hunting dogs. 

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071314 Chris Ellis.jpg DNR’s ‘outdoor summer school’

    Attention all West Virginia hunters and trappers. It is once again time for outdoor summer school and the course materials are hot off the presses.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meet the Eurasian collared-dove

    Back in 1974 a local pigeon fancier imported a flock of about 50 Eurasian collared-doves to the Bahamas. Ultimately he released the birds, and they took to living in the West Indies. By the late 1970s some had reached south Florida, and by the late 1980s, some had been seen in Georgia and Arkansas.

    July 13, 2014

  • July in W.Va.: Recreational opportunities abound

    It’s July in the West Virginia mountains, which brings vibrant orange tiger lilies, blooming rhododendron, and of course fireworks. Usually the heat and humidity is in full force, but so far the weather has been nice.

    July 13, 2014

  • Shotgun 101: Shoot more and live better

    “God is not on the side of big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.”
    — Voltaire

    July 9, 2014

  • Fireflies are living lights

    At recent Fourth of July fireworks displays, spectators squealed with delight at the annual spectacle that illuminated the night sky. And I’m sure more than a few compared the spectacular pyrotechnics to the subtler displays of fireflies that punctuate backyards, parks, and campgrounds all summer long. We call these displays “nature’s fireworks.”

    July 5, 2014

  • Get on up, or you’ll get left behind

    “Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.” —
    William Shakespeare

    July 3, 2014

  • Catfish, it's whats for dinner

    I think for far too long the catfish has had an image problem. They seemed to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the fish world. You know, they got no respect. Fortunately though (maybe unfortunately if you are a catfish), that seems to be in the past. They are a fish whose time has come.

    June 28, 2014

  • It’s more than a boat, it’s an adventure

    Growing up on Elk River, I couldn’t help being connected to the river and its waters. It is where I caught my first fish, learned to swim, paddle a canoe, to read water and throw a buzz bait, killed my first duck, gigged frogs and spent many a Saturday night fishing for catfish. We lived in a river bank community, and the Elk provided us with everything from water for our homes to all the recreation a young boy would need to fill his youthful requirements for adventure.

    June 28, 2014

  • Old friends at the beach

    If your summer vacation plans include a trip to an east coast beach, I can’t predict everything you might see. But one bird that I guarantee you’ll encounter many times is the laughing gull.

    June 28, 2014

Web Special Sections
  • Special Web Sections

    Click HERE for stories about natural gas and Marcellus shale gas extraction.

    Click HERE for stories about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

    Click HERE for stories about the passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

    Click HERE for stories from The Greenbrier Classic PGA TOUR event.

    August 6, 2010

Helium debate
AP Video
US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Obama Offers Condolences at Dutch Embassy Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Raw: Lawmakers Scuffle in Ukraine's Parliament The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques ShowBiz Minute: Hoffman, Oberst, Box Office WWII Vet Gets Medals, 70 Years Late Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran