Fresh data from our five tagged woodcock

By Chris Heward, GWCT Wetlands Assistant

We’re now entering that busy time of year when the Woodcock Watch blog is alive with new updates. Usually, this is because we have deployed a fresh cohort of shiny new tags that transmit faultlessly during their first spring migration. This year, we have only tagged one new bird (read more about Holkham here) but there is, despite this, still plenty of activity to report. We have carried over four birds from previous years, all of whom are keeping in regular contact.


All five woodcock, Wensum (2013), Monkey IV (2015), Sir John (2016), Nellie III (2017) and Holkham (2018) have transmitted in the past couple of days. This suggests it’s been sunny across Western Europe, which has given their solar-powered tags a much-needed boost.

Interestingly, none of the birds have travelled very far yet (or at all). Holkham, Monkey and Nellie are all still in Norfolk where they have spent the winter and Wensum is at a site Germany which, based on the past four years’ worth of data, is her usual wintering site.

Sir John is in Germany too and we had speculated that this was his first stop-over en route to his breeding site. But this is based on the slightly shaky assumption that he had been back to Norfolk at some point this winter - we only have very low quality data to suggest that he might have and it’s equally possible that he spent the whole winter at his current German location.

Either way, it’s clear that migration hasn’t really begun yet for our tagged birds. In previous years, it has tended to be around the 20th March when we see most birds moving. It’s possible that the recent snowy weather has caused some delays, but we wouldn’t expect them to take too long to recover from a cold snap as brief as last week’s. With a period of relative calm over the next few days, I would not be surprised to see some migratory movements very soon.

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