Which wood­cock is which?

Sporting Shooter - - Letters -

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

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