Matt Cross gives an update for Shooting Times

With the November full moon now just 4 weeks away the thoughts of game shooters are turning increasingly to woodcock and hopes are high for strong early falls. A few birds have begun to drift in with odd examples reported by shooters and birdwatchers however no substantial falls have yet been observed.

Woodcock 2021

On Mull birdwatcher Robbie Steen gave Shooting Times a short answer when we asked if he had seen any woodcock yet. Robbie said “no”. There was also not much evidence of woodcock on the east coast where fox shooters contacted by Shooting Times were not seeing any significant numbers when lamping.

While many shooters use temperatures in the UK as their guide to how the woodcock shooting will be, it is actually the weather on their breeding grounds which is more important. The GWCT’s tracked woodcock Holkham, Nellie 3 and Fonthill Abbie 2 are currently in Norway, Sweden and Eastern Russia respectively. Temperatures across Scandinavia, the Baltic and Russia are currently around the seasonal average, however a significant change is expected over the next few weeks with the influence of Atlantic weather weakening and high pressure systems developing over eastern Europe. This should bring about the perfect combination of easterly winds and low temperatures which push migratory woodcock across the North Sea.

Concerns over the status of the UK’s own breeding population of the birds have led to a voluntary ban on shooting the birds early in the season. A spokesperson for the GWCT told Shooting Times: “We advise shoots to delay the start of woodcock shooting to reduce the risk to our resident population. When to delay until depends on where you are in the country, but the first of December is a good rule of thumb for most regions”

Unlike their larger cousins, snipe numbers have been showing distinct rise with good, if unspectacular, numbers of birds coming in from Fennoscandia and rough shooters picking up the odd bird on their normal wintering grounds.