Almost 10 per cent fewer woodcock are breeding in the UK than in 2003, according to surveys carried out last year for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). The greatest decline was in south-east England, where the population fell by 17.5 per cent, and numbers were also down in seven of the other 11 areas surveyed.

There was better news in the north of England and northern Scotland, where numbers were marginally up on figures recorded 10 years ago and roding males were spotted in more than half of woodland areas larger than 10ha.

The GWCT is analysing the full results to estimate the size of the woodcock population across the UK and assess possible causes of regional variations. To get involved in the research, visit www.woodcockwatch.blogspot.co.uk.