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Woodcock ready for epic flights back…
8:00am Monday 24th September 2012 in News
For such diminutive birds weighing just over 300 grams, satellite-tracked woodcock have travelled epic distances up to 4,000 miles to their breeding grounds as far away as Krasnoyarsk in eastern Russia this year. Some will have raised chicks for the first time and now the 11 satellite-tagged woodcock, which are being followed avidly by birdwatchers across the globe, are making their record-breaking flights back to their over-wintering sites in Britain.
Ardent followers of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s dedicated Woodcock Watch will be able to view the unique spectacle of the satellite-tracked woodcock in ‘real time’ to see whether they arrive back at the locations in Cornwall, Scotland, County Durham, Norfolk and Wales where they were originally caught and tagged in February this year.
Dr Andrew Hoodless, from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and a world authority on the species said, “This is when the satellite tracking really becomes interesting. We will gather a huge amount of new information from the satellite tags that we did not know before, such as how faithful woodcock are to their UK over-wintering sites. Will they follow the same routes back to the UK that they took to their breeding sites? Will they migrate at the same time, for example, will birds in Norway move later than those in Sweden or further east and how long will it take them to arrive back?”
From mid-September, GWCT scientists and all those watching the Woodcock Watch website will start to unravel some of these mysteries through this ground-breaking research initiative.
Already Dr Hoodless and his team have collected an arsenal of information on woodcock in order to discover the current conservation status of this mysterious bird. Dr Hoodless explains, “The woodcock is amber listed in the UK and has suffered a reported 86 per cent decline in breeding numbers during the last 30 years. Compared to many other birds, we still know very little about its behaviour and ecology because of its very secretive nature.
“About 750,000 to 1,000,000 migrant birds arrive in Britain each year to spend the winter months here and it is intriguing to learn more about this influx of migrants that join our own much smaller native population. This information is important because the species is potentially susceptible to altered conditions resulting from climate change, habitat destruction and hunting pressure across Europe.”
Previous research by the GWCT has already revealed fascinating information about the elusive woodcock through testing stable-isotope ratios in feathers, which act as ‘markers’ and identify the place where they were hatched. These studies, generously funded by the Countryside Alliance Foundation, indicated a high degree of mixing of woodcock originating from Scandinavia, Finland, Russia and the Baltic States. Scotland and Ireland support a higher proportion of woodcock from central and northern Scandinavia, whereas in southern England more birds originate from western Russia and the Baltic states.
To read a fascinating summary highlighting the research on the origins of woodcock, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust has published a fully illustrated pocket guide, kindly funded by the Countryside Alliance Foundation. For free copies of the publication, please contact Daniel O’Mahony on 01425 651060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org To follow the incredible and exciting journeys of all 11 satellite-tagged woodcock as they return to their over-wintering sites across Britain, please log onto the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s dedicated woodcock website at www.woodcockwatch.com