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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Winter 2011/12

The season started early with Tony Cross ringing our first woodcock of the winter in Powys, Wales on October 15th. By early November many of our ringers were reporting a steady increase in woodcock numbers on their sites. Normally we encounter a high number of juveniles for the first two or three weeks of ringing. However as we progressed into late November it became apparent that the ratio of juveniles to adults remained higher than normal. It was also becoming clear that the overall number of woodcock on our sites was around 60% of normal. This was also the case in France where they were also noticing high numbers of juveniles

This winter was very unusual in that conditions remained exceptionally mild across most of Western Europe. Our ringing colleagues in Russia were still catching woodcock into the early weeks of December when normally by this time much of the country would be covered in deep snow and woodcock would have migrated far to the west.

Then in Late January conditions changed when extreme wintery conditions pushed south and west to most of Europe including the UK. By early February large numbers of woodcock were reported passing through Holland and arriving on our east coast. At the same time several of our ringers reported catch higher number of adults appearing on their sites.

We will never know exactly what occurred this winter, but many are speculating that adult woodcock having previous winter experience decided not to migrate until the weather forced them, whereas the juveniles flew south and west earlier driven by an innate drive to migrate.

Despite having fewer woodcock to catch on our sites the Network did well in managing to ring the highest number ever in the UK with 1146 new birds and re-trapping a further 130. This total represents over 10% of the number of woodcock ringed since 1903.

We were pleased to see several new ringers joining our efforts this winter and we now have 27 working on sites from Jersey to the North of Scotland. Several more are planning to join us next winter and so we are optimistic that we will continue to increase the number of woodcock ringed in the coming years.

This winter the Network bought and fitted 10 geo-locators on a site in West Wales and assisted The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) by fitting a further 10 to woodcock in Pembrokeshire, these are some of a total of 53 fitted this winter across the country and we hope to re-trap some of these birds in the next few years and download the data to find out the details of their migration.

We were also involved in a GWCT satellite tagging project with myself, Tony Cross, and Terence Lambert fitting two tags on bird here in Wales. These were two of a total of twelve being fitted to woodcock across the country as a part of a study into woodcock migration that can be followed via the Woodcock Watch link.

We now have a very successful facebook page with 735 followers. This is proving to be a valuable point of contact for anyone interested in woodcock.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our dedicated ringers whose hard work through the dark and wet winter nights have made such great progress possible.


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