Woodcock surveys and CoViD 19

The woodcock breeding season will now be well underway. Male woodcock will be roding all across the country and most females will be incubating. Some females will already have chicks, especially given the relatively mild start to the spring.

Normally, by mid-April, we are busy with spring fieldwork but under current coronavirus restrictions, little of our usual work can continue.

We co-ordinate a national monitoring scheme of Britain’s breeding woodcock population in collaboration with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). A network of volunteers across the country conduct three counts of roding male woodcock in May-June and the results allows us to measure annual fluctuations in their numbers.

We have been instructing surveyors not to carry out their usual surveys in order to reduce unnecessary travel and the risk of spreading coronavirus. However, in light of the government’s revised guidelines this week, we are in discussion with the BTO about the possibility of surveyors in England visiting local sites to conduct counts. We will issue an update next week, but in the meantime would encourage people who are lucky enough to be able to conduct roding counts on their own property to do so.

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Ground Nesting Birds

at 13:27 on 20/05/2020 by Simon Mansell

Corona Virus lock-down has seen an explosion of visitors into the countryside and woodland along with their dogs. In spite of livestock more often than not these dogs are not on their lead. Woodcock were absent as breeding birds until the mid-19th century, when extensive planting of pheasant coverts (for shooting) was responsible for an increase in numbers. It is apt that the shooting community is now spearheading the research and conservation of this majestic bird and shoots can do much to discourage irresponsible dog owners allowing their dogs unfettered access to breeding habitat in the countryside.

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