considerable research has been undertaken by European departments on this
secretive bird, it must not be forgotten that a programme of research
carried out in this country in the 1960's by the Federation of Cork Gun
clubs in association with Donegal Game Council, produced details which
allowed the controlling bodies at the time the necessary scientific data
to regulate the shooting season in line with the data which they collected
and not with anecdotal here-say.
work divided into two activities:
1. Stock densities, 1968-1972.
2. Sexual activity and fertility studies. 1972-73-74.
outcome of Activity 1
That the population of home breeding woodcock or native stock fluctuated
very little over the five-year study period and indicates stability of
the native stock with a possible steady if small growth rate.
outcome of Activity 2
This identified that woodcock had not started mating in the month of February
as was offered as a reason to shorten the shooting season.
A broad outline of the criteria for the survey and the results that emerged
are as follows, All the birds in the survey were weighed; their wings,
tails and bills were measured. Sex and age were determined by dissection.
The age of the birds was estimated by bursal probe examination and the
condition of the ovaries and testes. There are six stages of readiness
towards a bird becoming ready to mate and the results indicated that woodcock
that were taken in the month of February were not in breeding condition;
stage six on the scale had not been reached. This type of study allows
the shooting fraternity to project their arguments, which are based on
proven scientific study, in response to those individual's and groups
that would seek to reduce the number of migratory species that are available
to the hunter. Great credit must go to all the individuals who undertook
this study and also to those who carried out the field and laboratory
work on behalf of the Irish shooting fraternity. There are still a considerable
number of unanswered questions that relate to woodcock in Ireland, for
instance what is the status and number of Irish woodcock, by that I mean
those birds that breed and remain with us?
- What is
the actual number of wintering woodcock in Ireland?
- What is
the ratio of young birds to adult birds in the winter visitors?
- How has
the increased acreage of forestry effected the distribution of our winter
- Is the
forestry holding hidden amounts of woodcock?
a few questions that spring to mind, I am sure there are more to be answered,
if you have any information no matter how small I would be delighted to
hear from you. I am sure that there are those of you out there who may
know considerably more about woodcock than I do and if that be the case
I bow to your knowledge, the data that I have attempted to collected is
to try and give a reasonable picture of the woodcock in this country and
their activities during the winter months. I take no credit for the information
in this article, that credit goes to those who have produced the wealth
of details that can be found in relation to this bird and I thank all
those who have worked tirelessly to provide "us" the shooting
fraternity with a wealth of information both scientific and anecdotal.
The research goes on and in the coming years the remaining unanswered
questions may assist us to have a better understanding that will hopefully
benefit the woodcock and the woodcock hunter alike. You can assist in
developing greater knowledge on the woodcock by becoming a member of the
National Woodcock Association Of Ireland or you may contribute information
to the woodcock association by using the contact link on the website.