Well, in terms of ringing totals from the central part of Pembrokeshire, this winter has been slightly above average for woodcock, but for all other species that roost in pasture at night, the totals are lower than usual, though most are typically only found in small numbers anyway - see table below. The exception is snipe which is often seen in good numbers but is very difficult to catch.
During ringing visits counts are also made of all woodcock seen, regardless of whether they are ringed or not and this enables a more reliable comparison of the encounter rate, which is perhaps a better indicator of actual numbers because catch rate varies enormously with weather conditions and the brightness of the sky. In Pembrokeshire catching is often best when there is at least some wind, under thick, low cloud or (surprisingly) no cloud at all when every star is visible. High or scattered cloud makes a bright sky due to light pollution, especially on the horizon, and in such conditions, woodcock often fly before close approach can be made. Having said that, the average encounter rate based on 161 field visits was 0.55 per hectare, 10% above the combined average for previous winters since 2008/09 (0.50), so in this case the slightly higher field counts agree almost perfectly with slightly higher ringing totals. Not so gloomy after all!
|Woodcock roosting in pasture. Photo: Myles Jenks|