18/3/2016

Woodcock tags resurfacing thanks to spring sun

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here at GWCT HQ the weather is looking disappointingly grey for a Friday. This concludes a week that has otherwise looked refreshingly spring-like, with sunny spells, blue skies and noticeably lighter evenings.

Whilst it might not look too promising today, the recent run of clement weather has certainly worked wonders for our satellite tags. The tags’ solar-powered batteries are dependent upon the sun to keep their charge and it’s this time of year that an increase in day length and sunlight intensity can revitalise tags whose energy levels have dwindled over the cold, dark winter.

First to return was Smithy, whose unexpected reappearance was detailed in Tuesday’s blog. Now two more birds, Irina and Monkey IV, have done the same.

Irinamap

For Irina and Monkey IV, this is the first indication we have had that these birds have made it safely back to their wintering grounds. Both returned high-quality data yesterday; Irina is currently in County Cork, Ireland whilst Monkey IV is in North Norfolk.

In both instances, these birds have returned to sites very close to where they were caught. It is likely that Irina and Monkey IV have been back on their wintering grounds for some time, but have only had sufficient battery-power to transmit in recent days due to the improvements in the weather.

In addition to Irina and Monkey IV, the recently resurrected tags of Doc and Smithy sent more data yesterday. Nastasia and Knepp, who have transmitted intermittently throughout the winter, also returned good data and whilst Olwen has not transmitted accurate data this week, we have had a few low-quality fixes that indicate his tag is keeping reasonably well charged.

If this continues, we should be witnessing repeat spring migrations for seven of our woodcock this year.

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