The Woodcock Network

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Patron ~ The Duke of Northumberland, DL, MRICS

Scientific Advisor ~ Dr Andrew Hoodless, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Veterinary Advisor ~ John Chitty, BVetMed, CertZooMed, CBiol, MIBiol, MRCVS

Veterinary Advisor ~ Chris Davis, BVM&S, MRCVS

Director ~ Owen Williams

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Patron appointed

I am pleased to be able to announce that His Grace, the Duke of Northumberland has agreed to be patron to The Woodcock Network. This is particularly exciting as it was on his Alnwick estate that the first bird was ringed in the UK, by his ancestor Lord William Percy in the late 19th Century. His involvement with our network is even more appropriate as those first ringed birds were woodcock, a part of Lord Percy's research into the species which revealed some fascinating facts about the realtive loyalty of our indigenous woodcock to their natal area.

With the moon now well past half full we have an enforced break in our nightime activities. Time to charge batteries and dry out clothing after a very wet period. The latest total for the Network is 99 woodcock ringed over the past 3 weeks. Thanks to all those ringers who have contacted us to join our efforts, it is exciting to see woodcock ringing covering more and more of the UK. For those from the shooting community we will work to link you up with trainers as soon as we can.

We have made some interesting observations with regards to the ratio of adults to juvenile in this first month. Last season it was clear that many of the earlier arrivals were juveniles, this is regarded as normal in migrating waders. This season the ratio in the first 36 birds I have ringed here in West Wales is nearer to 50:50 adult/ juv. Yves Ferrand, the French woodcock expert has confirmed that the same pattern is emerging in France and other Western European countries, his information is that breeding was reasonable to good this summer so we might be looking at a change in migration behaviour. The next month may reveal more.

This highlights the value of our activities in the field and the potential for making exciting discoveries about this little understood species. If you have any interesting or unusual observations whilst about your woodcock ringing please let me know and will pass these to Andrew Hoodless. Andrew and I are currently looking at ways in which we can gather more data whilst ringing. One area of interest is the use of GPS plotters to mark where we ring birds on our sites. These are cheap (about 45) and the data can be downloaded onto GoogleEarth maps and will build up to be an exciting data source for looking into specific site preferences for feeding woodcock.

I hope that the coming months weather will settle down a little. It has been quite a challenge to hold a net steady in all these gales and approaching birds quietly has been almost impossible. Congratultions to Sean Morris on the Isle of Rum for his sterling efforts. Knowing the Western Isles and how the wind can really blow there you must have arms of steel to hold that net... is it down to Iron Bru? I have found that in wind over a certain strength it is often easier to approach birds down the wind as it helps in holding the net steady and the noise of the wind masks your approach.

If there are any ringers or even better ringing trainers out there, the network has people in Somerset and the Isle of Mull who are keen to be trained, please get in touch on 01974 272654.


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