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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Update January 2011

The ringing season got off to a slow start with many ringers in the south of the UK not seeing appreciable numbers until well into November. By late November there were good numbers being reported throughout the country and reports from bird observatories on the east coast reflected a steady flow from Europe. There were however concerns regarding poor breeding success following the drought in large parts of the Russian breeding grounds. Analysis of age ratios carried out by The Woodcock Network and our colleagues in France will give us a better picture soon.

In Early December the weather turned very cold and after only a brief mild period the snow and frost returned and lasted up to the New Year. This has hampered ringing with it being impossible to catch woodcock with so much snow on the fields.

The average weights of woodcock held up quite well through the frost but dropped rapidly once the snow came, what was remarkable was the rapid recovery in average weights once the thaw occurred. Woodcock were observed feeding busily late into the night, one re-trap revealed a weight gain of 40gms over 5 days. Since the mild weather average weights have risen well, with current levels being 355gms, a good 20gms above normal. A few ringers have reported catching birds over 400gms, the heaviest being 439gms caught in Hampshire, the biometrics confirmed that this bird was larger than normal and not just fat.

There have been some interesting recoveries of ring this winter with two more Welsh ringed woodcock turning up in Russia last spring, another has been reported from Spain. There have also been a higher than normal number of French ring recoveries made in the UK this winter, possibly as a result of cold weather movements.

So far the Network has ringed over 300 woodcock this winter, this is lower than at this time last year due to the poor catching conditions. We hope that the next two months will allow us to catch up.

Latest reports suggest that woodcock densities are patchy throughout the country after the cold weather, there is little doubt that 2010/11 has been a far from normal winter with many being displaced from their normal wintering grounds by record low temperatures and deep snow.


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