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We know that some woodcock are sedentary, that is locally resident, but the number of woodcock greatly increases during the months from October to January as a result of wintering migrants which arrive to our shores due to a number of reasons, their innate need to migrate and probably their basic desire of self preservation in the face of severe temperature decreases in their native home land. Remember the woodcock is a probing bird and if the ground is in the grip of hard frost or covered in freezing snow there will be nothing to eat, therefore by keeping ahead of this type of climate change they ensure their survival.

There has been considerable research into this question and data which was published as far back as 1930 from the 7th International Ornithological Congress at Amsterdam, a paper called the Migration of the woodcock (scolopax rusticola l) from Sweden by Einar Lonnberg indicates that woodcock ringed in parts of Sweden migrate directly to Ireland, the following passage is worthy of note: Among the woodcocks ringed in Jamtland we find one killed in central Scotland on the 11th Dec. and three more have been found in the months Nov., Dec., and Jan. in Western and South-western Ireland and still another one killed in Normandy in Feb. The woodcocks found in Scotland and Ireland have no doubt crossed over the North Sea. The probability of this has also been strengthened by the direct observation of a great number of drowned woodcock floating on the sea between Normandy and Hull after a storm in the last days of Nov, 1928 as has been stated in "The Field" newspaper at that time. Some other information in the little jewel of past research indicates that woodcock born and ringed in Jamtland in Sweden on the 2nd August had reached Kerry in the Southwest of Ireland by the 13th November of the same year. Other indications suggested that young woodcock are first to leave their native shores with the older birds remaining as late as December before migrating.

In the year 1974/75 a survey was started to identify the wintering site fidelity of woodcock in Ireland, John Wilson of the then Forest and Wildlife service conducted the survey, the survey took place over four winters and the following are the comments at the conclusion of the survey. (This survey was presented at the Second European woodcock and snipe workshop, which was held at Fordingbridge England in April 1982.) During the four winter periods 420 woodcock (scolopax rusticola) were caught and ringed at several places in Ireland to provide insights in movement of wintering woodcock. 72 retrapped birds exhibited high site fidelity within the wintering period and from winter to winter. Three radio-equipped birds observed over one late wintering exhibited a regular pattern of diurnal and nocturnal dwelling, which was slightly altered by climatic changes. To the layman like myself I presume this means that woodcock return to the same areas year after year, which in some ways makes them predictable, subject to weather conditions.

So, we now have a good idea based on sound research work that woodcock which come to Ireland as winter visitors follow a distinct pattern and the following description of their journey and their place of origin is quite definitive: Woodcock which winter in the Western and Southern parts of Europe come from Scandinavia, Central Europe and Russia. The migratory flyways follow a general direction, North-East - South-West. Therefore the majority of woodcock that migrate to Ireland come from Norway and Sweden. This has been proven by ring analysis. As part of my attempt to accumulate information on woodcock in Ireland I approached Des Crofton of the N.A.R.G.C. and he was more that helpful with information from within the N.A.R.G.C. and he referred me to a French biologist Dr. Yves Ferrand and I am extremely grateful for the in-depth information which he has passed to me . He is in actual fact, and I shall refer to his title in his native language, Direction de la recherché et du developpement, Office National de la Chasse, St Benoit, France. Dr. Ferrand supplied the information in relation to where woodcock that winter in Ireland come from and considerably more besides.

MIGRATION
On the subject of migration of those woodcock that come to our shores in winter
I asked Dr. Ferrand the following questions? When does migration start, in what month and how regular is this? The following answer supplies a wealth of information and again is based on reliable research over a long period of time. Account is taken only of woodcock, which winter in Western and Southern Europe. The birds which come from the further breeding sites (Oural Mountains) begin to migrate in mid-September. In North-West Russia, they start in the first decade of October. Usually the first migration of woodcock reaches our shores at the end of October but the peak of migration occurs around mid-November. So migration may last two months. From the ringing analysis, we know that a woodcock can travel 500-600 kilometres in one night but they must stop for rest and replacement of body fat, which is necessary to complete the onward journey If it is warm at the home site, or if strong winds hamper the flight the migration may be delayed. If an early cold spell occurs, the migration may be advanced. Nothing is strictly defined in animal behaviour. Dr. Yves Ferrand is the author of many papers on the woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) and must be regarded as an expert in this field.


 
General Des/Other Information | Roding | Where they Come From | Bag Returns and Population Densities |Research at Home
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