By Chris Heward, Wetland Research Assistant
Soval was tagged on Islay in February 2015 and proceeded to make an 1800km trip to central Sweden. He remained at his Swedish home all summer where we would assume he attempted to attract a female (or females – male woodcock are polygamous).
We didn’t hear any more from Soval through the latter part of the summer or in the autumn when our other birds began to return to the UK.
It’s common for our tagged woodcock to ‘go missing’ in late summer/early autumn. At this time of year, woodcock probably feel more vulnerable as they undergo their moult and are prone to spending a lot of time hidden away in dense vegetation. This denies the solar-powered satellite tags the sunlight they need to transmit data.
In the past, birds that have gone missing during their moult have reappeared during the winter when the trees have lost their leaves and sufficient sunlight reaches the tag on the roosting woodcock’s back. Failing this, we may reconnect with these tags in spring when the days begin to lengthen again and our woodcock start to spend more time in the open as they make their spring migrations.
Like Irina, Monkey IV and Doc before him, Soval has reappeared this spring. At present we’ve only received a single transmission, though we are hoping that there will be more to follow. This data-point showed Soval to be on Islay on the 9th April – close to his original tagging location.
We are hoping that future transmissions will show Soval migrating back to his breeding site in Sweden for a second time although it remains to be seen if this is his intention. It is somewhat surprising to see that he is still on Islay at such a late date – most of our other tagged woodcock are either well on their way now or, as in the case of Doc and Knepp, have finished their migrations.