A WOODCOCK expert at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is urging people to think carefully before shooting the species.
Andrew Hoodless, who is Head of Wetland Research at the Trust, has issued the call for restraint due to indications that our migrant woodcock have experienced a poor breeding season this year.
Concerns were first raised by woodcock ringers in western Russia, who monitor the numbers of first-year birds in their autumn catches each year.
This year they have recorded the lowest proportion of first-year birds for ten years. A similar, but patchy, picture is emerging from woodcock ringing data in the UK and France and, surveys of wings from birds shot at the beginning of the season in France and Italy, have confirmed a lower proportion of first-year birds than usual in most regions.
The reason for this is likely to be a period of unusually cold, wet weather at the time when most broods were hatching in Western Russia, resulting in higher chick mortality.
Dr Hoodless has issued the following statement: “GWCT and the Woodcock Network are advising shooters across the UK to rethink their woodcock shooting for this season and reduce their bags. This echoes moves being taken by organisations in several other European countries. A further update will be issued in early January, once more information is available.
“Although similar events will have happened many times in the past, this is the first time that monitoring of woodcock age ratios by ringers, and improved communication across Europe, has been able to offer shooters an early warning system. Populations normally rebound after such events, but most shooters understand the importance of preserving breeding stocks when there are signs of adverse natural events and are prepared to minimize shooting pressure in order to aid population recovery.”
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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.
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