ANDREW Hoodless is urging Guns to refrain from shooting woodcock before December 1st.
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) head of wetlands research has made the call, for the second year running, to take the pressure off resident breeding birds.
“Of course, there may be some coastal areas where the only chance of a woodcock comes in November, but for inland shoots, particularly where woodcock may be breeding, it is prudent to delay shooting woodcock until at least December.”
“We have no information on the breeding success of woodcock in Britain and Ireland in 2018, but our crude understanding at present is that woodcock productivity is likely to be lower when weather is drier in June and July, as recently fledged chicks will find it harder to forage,” explained Dr Hoodless. “Hence, we expect breeding success to have been below average this year.”
“The word from Scandinavia, via contacts in Denmark and Sweden, is that their impression is one of a poor breeding season owing to the exceptionally dry summer.
“In Russia, the early evidence suggests a mixed picture, with an indication that it has been a relatively poor breeding season west of Moscow but an average one east of Moscow.”
Our research indicates that a higher proportion of Scandinavian woodcock occur in Scotland and northern England than southern England in winter and that a higher proportion of Russian birds occur in the south.”
It appears Ireland receives a more equal mix of birds from all breeding regions. However, the numbers of woodcock arriving also hinges on the weather at this time of year.
Dr Hoodless added: “If it suddenly gets much colder on the continent in the next couple of weeks that may push more woodcock to Britain than we would see in an average autumn.
“We should know more by December, but early sightings suggest that the woodcock migration in October was about two weeks late, although numbers are now picking up.”
In recent years, the GWCT has been working to improve understanding of the ecology and migrations of woodcock, with a view to helping shoot managers make informed decisions about their shooting policy.
Therefore, the Trust has launched an online survey to help fill some of the gaps in our knowledge of woodcock distribution and abundance, and to capture current shooting and habitat management practice.
We conducted a similar ‘Woodcock Inquiry’ in 1976, so we plan to compare some of the findings. The survey is simple to complete and caters for information from shoots and individual guns.
Take Survey >
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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