Woodcock spring migrations get underway

By Chris Heward, Wetlands Research Assistant

The woodcock’s spring migrations are well and truly underway. It’s nearly three weeks since the first of our tagged woodcock departed and now all but one of the eight active tags are outside the UK.. 


Five of these are clustered in the same broad area; the region where eastern Lithuania, Latvia northern Belarus and Russia meet. In previous years this has been a popular breeding site for our tagged birds, but there’s still time for last minute movements before we can say with certainty these birds have settled.

For those like Nellie II and Sir John, that we are tracking for a second year, we can make some predictions about their final destination based upon their previous movements. Nellie II is close to a site where she spent the spring and summer of 2016. Fonthill Abbie II and Sir John, on the other hand, are still around 500 km from the Russian breeding sites they visited last year.

On 22nd March, Manx woodcock Phynodderee made a bee-line for a forest near Malmö, Sweden and proceeded to send repeated transmissions from this site over the following week. This location, not far from Ruan’s breeding site in 2016, looks like suitable woodcock breeding habitat and we thought Phynodderee might settle here.

Earlier this week, Phynodderee resumed her eastward migration, with a flurry of fixes on Friday night as she passed over Gotland. The last of these was somewhere over the Baltic Sea; leaving us waiting for an update to confirm whether she made it safely to Estonia or Latvia. Yesterday morningPhynodderee transmitted from Latvia; proving her Baltic crossing had been a successful..

Malmö , SwedenPhynodderee’s stopover site near Malmö, Sweden

Recent sunny conditions have recharged Wensum’s tag, which sprang back in to life earlier this week. This showed that Wensum was in Estonia. Wensum was tagged in March 2013 and we have followed her on four separate migrations; each year returning to the same site in Finland. In the past few days she has made the hop northwards over the Gulf of Finland and is currently c. 50 km east of Helsinki.Wensum is by far our longest-running Woodcock Watch bird and, given she was caught and ringed as a juvenile in 2013, we know that she is approaching her fifth birthday.

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