Dr Andrew Hoodless, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s renowned woodcock expert has called on the shooting community to take part in the Trust’s massive research effort into the birds.

Initially, he is keen to hear when and how many woodcock are seen across the UK. Many more bag records, ideally broken down by date, during this season and 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, Dr Hoodless 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 be prepared to surrender three or four birds for carcase analysis. “I appreciate what good eating they are,” he told Shooting Times, “but hope that a few can be donated in the name of science.”

Twenty-four birds from across the UK have been fitted with satellite tracking devices in the past two years, and now the GWCT is planning to extend this research in the next few months by increasing the number of birds that are tagged. It also intends to add to the number of birds that have geolocators, which provide similar information to satellite tags and cost far less, but require the bird to be recovered.

Thousands of woodcock have had rings attached in the past couple of years, thanks to the work of the Woodcock Network, set up by sporting artist Owen Williams. Since 2007, the number ringed has risen from the low hundreds to more than 1,200 each winter, with ringing sites spread between Rum and Jersey.

Information gleaned from ringed birds increases knowledge about the timing of movements, the fidelity of birds to particular sites and measures of woodcock size and condition.

If you find a ringed bird, or would like to help Dr Hoodless with his research, email ahoodless•gwct.org.uk or tel 01425 651031. To see the latest positions of the GWCT’s satellite-tracked woodcock, visit www. woodcockwatch.com. To learn more about woodcock ringing, visit www.ringwoodcock.net.

Other related news items:

Woodcock watch needs volunteers – News 24th February, 2013

Woodcock ringing beings – News 7th November, 2012

New UK woodcock ringing initiative – News 27th November, 2008