by Chris Heward, Wetlands Research Assistant,
In the run up to Christmas our nocturnal ringing excursions were producing lower-than-average woodcock counts. We think the most likely explanation for this was the unseasonably mild weather, which meant many of our usual winter visitors were still on the continent.
We had hoped that cold weather over the Christmas break might encourage some of these birds to make the final push into the UK.
The results of last week’s ringing sessions seem to show that this hasn’t been the case. Numbers weren’t noticeably higher than they were in mid-December. Temperatures in Western Europe still don’t seem to be particularly low, at least not for extended periods, so perhaps most of the birds have decided that it is not worth the trouble.
Given the strong westerlies and wet weather we were suffering at the hands of Storm Frank and Co. over Christmas, who can blame them?
On Monday night we did see very large numbers of redwings and fieldfares though – many of which were roosting in flocks on the fields. This behaviour, as well as the sheer number of birds, gave the impression of freshly arrived migrants and we are hoping that their appearance may be indicative of woodcock to come.
Counts may have been low, but Wednesday in particularly was a productive evening’s ringing. Of the woodcock we did see we managed a good capture rate. This was really thanks to the wet and windy weather which is usually conducive to good catching (in such foul conditions the birds are less likely to hear us approaching).
Between the two of us, Andrew and I managed to catch 15 new birds and four retraps, bringing our total ringed for the year over the 140 mark.
Please help our declining UK woodcock