Scolopax rusticola – CYFFYLOG – Winter visitor and passage migrant.
George Owen (1603) refers to Pengelli Forest “wherein is a greate store of Woodcockes taken yearly” and devotes nearly two pages to their habits and the method of taking them with “nettes erected up between two trees”. Mathew (1894) reports Woodcock as an autumn and winter visitor and, as if to equal Owen, provides over two pages of information on Woodcock shooting. Lockley et al. (1949) describe the bird as a common winter visitor.
The Woodcock has not been proved to breed in Pembrokeshire, though Wintle (1924) thought that they probably did so at Caldey Island, where they were occasionally seen in the summer, and on rare occasions since they have been seen roding over suitable mainland habitat.
They arrive from 18 September, many probably passing through to Ireland judging by occurrences on the islands and at the South Bishop lighthouse. They can be found roosting by day in almost any bush and tree cover in Pembrokeshire during the winter, and are seen flying to their feeding grounds at dusk. Winters here are normally wet and mild, conditions that keep the ground suitable for Woodcocks. When the ground becomes frozen they concentrate at springs and other unaffected places. They resort to roadsides and gardens in prolonged hard weather and are forced to forage by day. Many probably move on in such circumstances but this is obscured by influxes of birds, presumably from the east, which pass on quickly if the freeze continues. A Woodcock ringed at Skokholm in February 1963 was recovered in Denmark a month later, so evidently Continental birds visit the county. This is also implied by the large numbers of birds that occur, such as 50 flushed at Stone Hall and 40 shot in a morning at Tregwynt (Mathew), and about 100 flushed at Stackpole on 18 January 1985.
The main departure takes place in March, with stragglers recorded up to 23 April, and probably involves through migrants from Ireland, suggested by an occurrence of the bird at the Smalls on 20 March 1984. Single Woodcocks were noted at Skomer on 1 June 1965, at Skokholm on 15 July 1962 and 26 July 1989 and at Bushford on 20 August 1989.
OWEN, G. 1603. (OWEN, H. 1894-1936. The description of Pembrokeshire by George Owen of Henllys. London. Chas J Clarke)
WINTLE, W.J. 1924. Some Caldey birds Pax 71:133-139.