Which woodcock is which?
On reading ‘The state of Wales’ article in the January issue of Sporting Shooter [p88], I was struck by how easy it is to confuse our resident and migrant populations of woodcock.
The article rightly pointed to the excellent Purdey award-winning habitat work conducted over many years by the Camddwr Shooting Society as a shining example of how shooting offers great benefits to biodiversity. However, in repeating details of this work published in the Countryside Alliance’s State of Nature report, the article perpetuated the confusion between our resident and migrant woodcock populations.
The work conducted by Camddwr has indeed brought about an impressive increase in woodcock numbers and explains why it was a worthy winner of its Purdey Award. However, in West Wales there are no records of breeding woodcock, so all the woodcock we encounter are migrants from Russia and Scandinavia. It is therefore misleading to reference this increase in migrants against the picture of the declining resident population, which largely remains on its breeding grounds throughout the winter.
It is good to see that, on learning of the decline in our resident woodcock population, many shoots in areas where they breed are heeding the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s advice and are now delaying their shooting until the bulk of the migrants (up to 1.2 million) arrive in late November. This reduces shooting impact on resident breeders, and is an excellent example of shooters reacting in a precautionary and responsible way to the latest scientific data.
Owen Williams (director of The Woodcock Network), via email