The new GWCT demonstration farm at Auchnerran has a very varied range of habitat including extensive woodland, and we have been intrigued to see how woodcock, one of GWCT’s key species, are using this.
“Preliminary woodcock surveys are very encouraging,” says Dr Dave Parish, Head of Lowland Research with GWCT, “but accurate surveying of them can be a challenge!
“Despite the fact that the male woodcock are most active in low-light conditions they are pretty conspicuous when they are displaying. However, ‘roding’ displays aren’t always carried out to the same degree by all males, or around a consistent patch of ground. Some individuals may be seen several times in a night whilst others only once, and perhaps others not at all. Males have also sometimes been recorded roding for days in one place before moving several kilometres to start somewhere else.
“For this year’s survey we used multiple observers recording simultaneously. We did this not only to help tell us how many birds we had but also to show any ‘hotspots’ where birds might be aggregated, and we found we had at least two of these.
“The highest number of males seen at exactly the same time across the site was five, giving an unequivocal minimum estimate for the population across Auchnerran. This hints at a very much higher actual number. Using (GWCT Head of Wetland Research) Andy Hoodless’s method for converting peak activity into the number of individuals, and averaging across all eight survey points, we have an estimated total abundance of around 17 males on the farm, or an impressive average density of 4.1 males/km2.”