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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Milder Conditions

We are now back into milder conditions and the large influx of woodcock we saw a month ago seem to have dispersed. On a limited sample on my own sites using weights of both birds ringed and shot locally I have been able to plot the reduction and recovery of average weights over the cold period. I stress that this is a limited sample and so not an accurate statistical picture.

The average December weight was 329gms, this rose to 335gms between the onset of the cold weather and Jan 3rd but then fell to a low of 306gms between Jan 3rd and Jan 9th. Recovery came following a steady thaw around Jan 13th with average weights of 319gms by Jan 15th rising to 330gms by Jan 19th. Since then average weights have risen to 344gms, which is well above the same period last winter, when the average was 327gms.

Many of you are reporting that it has become difficult to catch woodcock, which has also been my experience for the past two weeks. Many birds are flying as soon as the light hits them. It seems unlikely that this is because they have become lamp shy as Tony Cross and others are reporting the same problem on new sites.

I have one woodcock that I ringed on the 5th December and which I have now re-trapped three times since on the same site. This bird along with the other 22 re-traps I have made on my sites over this winter point to a significant level of wintering site fidelity (even through the cold weather). 13 of these birds are on their second or more visits to the site and most have been caught on the very same field where they were originally ringed.

I think the experience of this winter shows what a valuable contribution our network is making to the understanding of woodcock, not only through our pooled data which will become a valuable statistical resource but also our field observations. With new ringers joining us from Scotland to the South coast of England and several being trained to work on their own sites next winter we have an exciting future ahead of us. Thanks for all your support in this initiative.

Our current total for woodcock ringed this winter stands at 489


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