Thursday, 27 November 2014

Woodcock - Sexing, migration and Christmas presents

The first tagged Woodcock is back here for the winter! 

So, the first of the GWCT tagged Woodcock is back in the UK to spend the winter here – Monkey 111 (who does come up with these names!) has completed His/Her return journey from the breeding grounds in Western Russia and is now pootling about back in Hampshire.

You might well think that GWCT scientists should have paid enough attention in biology lessons at school to able to determine the sex of a Woodcock in the hand - but apparently it is not as easy as it might seem! Find out why and also see how all the other tagged birds are faring here

The British woodcock population comprises of both resident and migratory birds. In a typical winter we would predict around 10% of woodcock in the UK are home-bred, whilst the other 90% are visitors from Northern Europe and Russia.

Those percentages roughly translate into a resident breeding population estimated at 78,000 males and a total wintering population that could rise to 1.5 million individuals in some years. That is a lot of Woodcock who are due to hop across the North Sea in the next few days and weeks. Having said that, they don’t seem in any particular hurry to join us this winter, as mild conditions have meant that many of them are mucking about in Western European countries, taking a somewhat leisurely attitude to migration - and why not!

Finally, do you have that really difficult aunt or uncle, granny or cousin to buy a Christmas present for? Is Dad seriously problematic too, as he appears to already have drawers full of socks and the drinks cabinet is positively bulging, whilst Mum really, really does not want another scarf to be hung up with all the others!

Well, help is at hand! What about buying them a seriously interesting present, (rather than all the glittery tat that is on offer in the shops) – why not buy them a “sponsor a woodcock” present and help with this fascinating project! There are other woodcock related presents on the Woodcock Watch blog as well!

WOW – You know what - this is a seriously good blog – I've even helped you sort out your Christmas present buying!!    

1 comment:

  1. Peter,

    If I may, I'd like to give you an updated figure with regards to Britain's breeding woodcock population. The quoted estimate of 78,000 males is based on our surveys conducted in 2003 and we now have a new estimate based on the follow-up survey we conducted in 2013. This is approx. 55,000 males.

    Clearly, this represents a large-scale decline over the past ten years. A small proportion of the difference may be explained by improved survey coverage providing an estimate that is more accurate than that of 2003; but we expect much of the estimated decline is 'real' and is supported by other sources of data such as the BTO Atlas. Finding the cause of this decline, which appears to be specific to our resident population, is our next big challenge.

    Thanks for the plug!
    Woodcock Watch