Monday 15 December 2014

What a load of old Scolopax!

After a slow start it looks as if the Woodcock have finally arrived in Wales en masse. I caught my first one of the winter on the 28th October, a pretty usual date for seeing the first few returning birds, but although there have been reasonable numbers present since there hasn't been anything spectacular. The last two nights though have been very different! In the early hours of Sunday morning, after catching a few Snipe and Jack Snipe at Ynyslas with Matt Potter, I ventured out to one of our regular sites just inland of Aberystwyth and had a catch of 16 new Woodcock. Then last night I made the first visit of the winter to a regular site in Carmarthenshire and caught an amazing 27 Woodcock (25 new birds, 1 retrap from Feb 2011 and another from Jan 2012). That's 41 new Woodcock ringed in less than 24 hours!

Francios Gossman from the French equivalent of the Game Conservancy had recently contacted Owen to request information of the ratio of adult to young birds we were getting as there is some early suggestion that it may have been a poor breeding season for Woodcock in Russia this year as it has been so dry. The 43 birds I've just caught comprised 18 adults and 25 juveniles or 42% adults which is actually higher than the mean of around 30% observed over the past few years so perhaps there is something in it. Hopefully Owen will be able to post a more comprehensive assessment later when he has gathered comparable counts from other Woodcock ringers.

In the spotlight - if, through adult:juvenile ratios at trapping, Woodcock can be shown to have had a poor breeding season then the shooting community can be asked to exercise restraint so that numbers are allowed to recover.

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