New data received yesterday shows the first of our woodcock have begun their spring migrations. These are now visible online.
The birds in question are Doc and Knepp, who have spent the winter in County Cork and Sussex respectively. This will be Doc’s second tracked spring migration since we tagged him in 2015. Last year he travelled to a breeding site in Sweden, leaving his Irish home on the 28th March.
For Knepp, who was tagged in 2014, this is the third migration we have tracked. In the springs of 2014 and 2015 Knepp migrated to the same site in Finland and we would be very surprised to see Knepp doing something different this year.
In fact, of the eleven migratory woodcock that we have tracked in two or more consecutive years, nine have returned to the same breeding ground. The two that did not, Crugith and Monkey III, were birds that did not migrate at all in their second year and this unusual behaviour is the probably result of an underlying illness or injury preventing the requisite body condition for migration being reached.
The timing of their departure comes as no surprise. Across southern England yesterday wind speeds were low and this will have provided calm conditions for Knepp and Doc (Doc had already made the hop across the Celtic Sea from Ireland to England, setting off for France from Devon). Whilst a range of environmental and physiological cues are involved in the urge to migrate, the exact date of departure seems to be most heavily influenced by weather – particularly visibility, wind speed and direction.
We’ve tagged four new woodcock this year. These birds are due to be revealed shortly when the Woodcock Watch website will be receiving a fresh new look. This was intended to coincide with the spring migration of 2016 – but it seems that Doc and Knepp were not prepared to wait for the new site to go live.
We’ll blog again soon once the new website is up and running – hopefully with more news from Doc, Knepp and the rest of our birds.