By Chris Heward, Wetland Research Assistant
Of the four new woodcock that Woodcock Watch tagged this March, two were caught in North Norfolk; Sir John and Nellie II.
We were also pleased to welcome back Monkey IV – a woodcock tagged at the same site as Sir John and Nellie II in 2015. Monkey IV had stopped transmitting over the winter, but spring sun recharged his solar powered tag and he re-appeared back at his original wintering site.
This gave us three tagged woodcock starting from the same wintering location in the spring of 2016. What has really interested us is that all three have made similar spring migrations over very similar time scales.
Heading for Belarus
At the minute, these three can be found in approximately the same region around Northern Belarus. Sir John, who is trailing slightly behind Monkey IV and Nellie II is still within Lithuania, close to the Belarussian border, whilst Monkey IV and Nellie II are close to Belarus’ border with Russia. All three birds are within about 150 miles of one another.
This is not what we have seen in previous years; birds tagged at the same wintering site have not necessarily returned to the same breeding sites in the past. In the first year of Woodcock Watch four birds tagged within a couple of miles of one another in Cornwall returned to four completely different sites; Siberia, Western Russia, Belarus and Sweden. The fact that Monkey IV, Nellie II and Sir John seem to be plotting similar course may be nothing more than a coincidence.
Time to start heading home
The fact that these three birds all left Norfolk in the same week, on the other hand, is probably less coincidental and more by judgement. They departed between the 15th and the 20th March. This was just as spring weather was improving noticeably and probably the warm temperatures signalled to each of the birds that it was time to start heading ‘home’.
It will be interesting to see just how close to one another these three birds are when they settle at their final breeding grounds.