28 November 2013

GWCT woodcock research needs you!

The many ground-breaking research initiatives on woodcock that have been pioneered by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust since the late 1970s have helped to fuel the huge international interest in this elusive species among bird watchers, game interests and conservationists alike.

As we head for the New Year the GWCT’s long-standing research on woodcock is gathering increased momentum and Andrew Hoodless, the GWCT’s renowned woodcock expert would like the shooting community and gamekeepers to take part in this massive research effort.

Initially, Andrew is keen to hear when and how many woodcock are seen across the UK. Many more bag records, particularly broken down by date during this season as well as in previous years are required to help give a comprehensive picture of woodcock numbers and distribution.

This information is vital for estimating the size of the winter population and variation from year to year. This winter, Andrew will also be looking at body condition and the effects of cold spells on woodcock and snipe and would like to hear from anyone who would like to surrender three or four birds for carcass analysis. Andrew says, “I appreciate what good eating they are, but hope that a few can be donated in the name of science!”

Already through the inspiring satellite tracking project, GWCT scientists have gained fascinating and previously unknown insight into migration routes and strategies. This is invaluable for evaluating the importance of stop-over sites and the potential effects of altered conditions resulting from habitat destruction, climate change and shooting pressure.

Now that 24 birds from across the UK have been fitted with satellite tracking devices, the GWCT is planning to extend this research in the next few months by increasing the number of birds that have satellite tags attached as well as adding to the number of birds that have geolocators.

Woodcock ringing is another crucial way of gathering data on this mysterious bird. Andrew Hoodless says, “I am extremely grateful to the work carried out by the Woodcock Network, which is run by Owen Williams, the well-known sporting artist. Since 2007, numbers ringed have risen from the low hundreds to over 1,200 each winter with ringing sites spread between Rum and Jersey. This is an incredible achievement.”

Information gleaned from the ringed birds provides knowledge on the timing of movements, fidelity of birds to particular sites and measures of woodcock size and condition. Working closely with GWCT, the information gathered through the Network is helping to further unlock some of the secrets of this elusive and mysterious bird.

To see the latest positions of the GWCT’s satellite-tracked woodcock visit: www.woodcockwatch.com or to learn more about woodcock ringing visit: www.ringwoodcock.net. To supply bag records or to donate woodcock for carcass analysis, please contact Andrew Hoodless by email on : ahoodless@gwct.org.uk or telephone : 01425 651031

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Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

ISDN radio broadcast line – at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Kate Williams
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

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