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 April 2011

With the ringing season over itís now time to start looking at some of the data that our dedicated ringers have gathered over the winter. At one point with the snow stopping ringing around Christmas it looked like our total for 2009/10 of 636 was going to be difficult to beat but in the end we managed to ring 882, a great effort!

We now have a total of 21 ringers up and down the country who have discovered, that despite often being a cold and wet pastime woodcock ringing can also be very rewarding. Re traps and recoveries are becoming an interesting subject as we ring more and more birds.

As you can see on our recoveries page the bulk of our recoveries have come from the breeding grounds in Russia however there have been some interesting exceptions this year with one bird ringed in Mid Wales on 7/11/10 being shot in Wexford Ireland 2/1/11. This woodcock was either ringed on passage, or maybe it was pushed further west by the cold weather in December. There were also two recoveries of UK ringed woodcock from Spain. One ringed by myself in West Wales on 15/1/10 was shot in Northern Spain on 26/12/10, the other was ringed in Norfolk on 7/11/10 and shot in Northern Spain on 2/1/11.

Although recoveries of rings add a little to our understanding of woodcock migration it is only a snapshot. As most recoveries of woodcock are from shot birds the picture is hugely distorted by where and when woodcock shooting happens. With new technology giving us the means to track woodcock migration we are on the verge of unlocking many more secrets of this amazing bird.

Next season, following a successful trial of geolocators by the GWCT and having secured generous funding from The Shooting Times Woodcock Club, The Welsh charity Gilydd and significant donation from a major woodcock enthusiast we plan to fit geo locators on between 35 and 40 woodcock. This effort will be as a part of a wider collaboration between ourselves, GWCT, and The French Game and Wildlife Department.

Exciting that this is, we can still learn much from the data that is gathered by our ringers over the winter. Counts conducted on various sites are giving us a picture of woodcock movements in cold weather. Observations of average weights demonstrate the birdís physiological response to frost and snow. Adult juvenile ratios have been seen to vary from site to site opening up some interesting questions, and information gained from re-traps is showing us a high level of site fidelity in some areas.

This information is of great value and is being added to the international understanding of woodcock by being shared with some of the top scientists in the field. This May I will be attending the Woodcock and Snipe Specialist Group workshop in St Petersburg we hope to develop greater coordination in our combined research efforts.


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