Doc returns to Ireland after long silence

By Chris Heward, GWCT Wetlands Research Assistant

Things have been a little quiet over on the Woodcock Watch website; they often are at this time of year. But last week we were pleased to receive a little data from one of our Irish woodcock; Doc.

Doc was tagged in March 2015 as part of a collaboration between GWCT and researchers at the University of Cork. In his/her first spring Doc migrated to Sweden, where s/he spent the summer. Unfortunately, by autumn 2015, Doc’s tag had stopped transmitting due to low battery levels. In early March 2016, however, the tag reappeared, showing that Doc was back in Co. Cork close to his/her tagging location.


The sudden revival of the tag came at just the right time. It proved conclusively that Doc had made it back to Ireland for the winter. But also meant we had chance to follow Doc for a second spring migration – and in spring 2016 we managed to capture some really interesting data. Doc plotted a course over the Celtic Sea from Ireland to Devon, across the channel into France, and up through Belgium, Germany and the Danish island of Zealand into Sweden. This route meant Doc set off in a south-easterly direction before heading north, perhaps in an effort to avoid unnecessarily long sea-crossings?

Like in 2015, Doc’s tag then went quiet. We expect the dense forest in Sweden, along with the woodcock’s tendency to hide amongst thick cover in late summer, meant the solar-powered tag was shielded from the sun. The last transmission we had received, up until now, was mid-August.

Last week, the tag made a welcome return and, just like last year, has resumed transmission after a long autumn/winter break. Doc is back at the site in County Cork where s/he was tagged in spring 2015 and overwintered in 2015/16. Although this means we have missed Doc’s autumn migration again, it should allow us to track Doc’s outward migration for a third spring.

Please help us reverse the decline in British woodcock numbers


re: Woodcock

at 9:59 on 15/02/2017 by Rob - GWCT

You can view the GWCT's position on the shooting of woodcock here: http://www.gwct.org.uk/policy/position-statements/shooting-woodcock/

Woodcock migration

at 14:06 on 14/02/2017 by Sian Wombwell

What a remarkable bird! As we begin to understand the complexities of their migration, the huge distances and hazards faced, and the incredible ability to find their way "home", should we be asking ourselves if there is any justification for shooting them?


at 11:01 on 14/02/2017 by N C POPE

In light of the above research into Woodcock migration, and lives of these beautiful birds, and with warnings of the decline in numbers, should not the GWCT be campaigning for a total ban on Woodcock shooting. Many shoots voluntarily do not shoot them, and there would be much support for their removal from the quarry list.

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