Twitchers urged to count elusive birds

IN DECLINE: The woodcock
IN DECLINE: The woodcock
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Bird watchers in Lancashire are being asked to play a vital role in the conservation of one of Britain’s most secretive and elusive birds, the woodcock.

While the bird has been on the decline in recent years, the North of England remains a stronghold for the mysterious ground-nesting species. And the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust is asking twitchers to go out at dusk counting woodcock during the summer months when the males are performing their enigmatic roding activity to attract receptive females.

In the last survey roding woodcock were encountered in just under one third of woodlands surveyed. Northern and eastern England (68 per cent) northern Scotland (48 per cent) remained stronghold areas. The lowest occupancy levels were recorded in Wales (13 per cent), south Midlands (16 per cent) and south west England (18 per cent).

The 2013 national breeding survey estimated that the current breeding woodcock population in Britain is around 69,000 males, which represents an 11 per cent decline over 10 years. In England, 
woodcock numbers are down from 37,330 to 27,490.

Dr Andrew Hoodless, from the GWCT and a leading expert on the woodcock explained: “Until we know what is driving these declines it is important to make sure we are doing everything possible to protect our resident woodcock.

“Helping with our next phase of research is vital to discover how our resident woodcock are faring so that we can make recommendations on the best way of conserving this popular species in the future.”