Woodcock – research

Scolopax rusticola – CYFFYLOG – Winter visitor and passage migrant.

Woodcock are probably one of the most common waders in the county during the winter, according to work done by Paddy Jenks with the Pembrokeshire and Teifi Ringing Groups.  However, they are rarely seen, let alone counted, because of their secretive and generally nocturnal habits.

Paddy and his team ringed a total of 1653 woodcock between November 2008 and March 2019. 107 of these individuals were recaptured or recovered.   The recaptures show that many individuals have a very high site fidelity.  The ringers often found birds within a hundred metres of where they had been caught either the same winter, or in previous winters.  

The recoveries outside of the UK show that many individuals wintering in Pembrokeshire originate in Russia.  In Europe, it is illegal to shoot during the breeding season, so most of the recoveries from closer to home are probably birds on autumn migration, though some could have bred in these areas.  

The ringing groups hope to continue with the project into the future with the aim of collecting as large a sample size as possible, so that any future changes can be discerned.

The full report can be seen here

Information provided by Mike & Theresa Sherman

More about Woodcock in Pembrokeshire

Woodcock – 1994

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.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

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.

More about Woodcock in Pembrokeshire

Woodcock – 1980s winter

Scolopax rusticola – CYFFYLOG – Winter visitor and passage migrant

The BTO winter atlas showed that Woodcocks were present in the majority of 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84.

The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents over 4 birds seen in a day.

Not easy to locate so it is likely this species was under recorded.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

Data collected by volunteers for the BTO. Lack, P. 1986 Atlas of wintering birds in Britain and Ireland. T & A.D. Poyser.

More about Woodcock in Pembrokeshire

Woodcock – 1949

Scolopax rusticola

A common winter visitor, especially in hard weather.  In 1603 almost incredibly abundant, but has decreased since, and is probably still decreasing.  Mathew believed it bred in small numbers, and Wintle thought it bred on Caldey.  Alexander (1945) was given no definite evidence of breeding in the county, though a pair, evidently mating, were at Orielton 28 Feb 1935 (H.A.Gilbert).  Among good covers mentioned by Mathew are Sealyham, Cuffern, Tregwynt, near Tufton Arms, Trecwm, Stone Hall, and (especially) Slebech; to which this species still resorts.

R.M.Lockley, G.C.S.Ingram, H.M.Salmon, 1949, The Birds of Pembrokeshire, The West Wales Field Society

More about the Woodcock in Pembrokeshire

Woodcock – 1894

Scolopax rusticula – An autumn visitor, doubtless also a resident in limited numbers.

Although we have no instance of a Woodcock’s nest having been found in the county, it must certainly breed occasionally, if not regularly, in some of the large covers.

We had always formed to ourselves large expectations of the sport to be had in Pembrokeshire in Woodcock shooting, and it was chiefly on this account that we were led to fix for a time our residence in the county. But we were greatly disappointed. The days of large bags seem to have passed away; and, although old sportsmen had great things to tell of doings at some of the famous covers in by-gone years, in our own experience Pembrokeshire seemed to rank far behind Devonshire as a Woodcock county.

Through the kindness of our old friend Colonel John Owen, of Rosebush, who for many years rented the Trecwn shooting, we had many days with him in those beautiful covers where rhododendrons and alders combine to make attractive lodgings for the Cocks, and on several occasions found them plentiful; one day we must have had over a hundred flushes. In beating the Trecwn covers we generally began by trying the wooded hill-sides in order to drive the Cocks down into the large alder-beds in the valley, where we would finish in the afternoon. Here the Cocks would be sometimes plentiful, and almost every step forward flushes would ensue. Watching the ground carefully between the alder stools we would occasionally detect a Cock, or a couple of Cocks, squatting upon the ground; others moved elsewhere would fly towards us, and settle at our feet. As the birds were flushed again they often disappointed us of a shot by darting off through the bushes, only a foot or two above the ground, when we dared not fire for fear of hitting a beater, or one of the other guns, for in such a cover it was next to impossible to keep in line. We were careful not to shoot unless the Cocks topped the alders, or crossed us above them. Woodcock shooting with a party in large alder covers is dangerous work, and a rash shot might speedily afford employment for the doctors.

We have enjoyed good sport in the covers of Sealyham, Cuffern, Tregwynt, in the woods near the Tufton Arms, &c, &c, and in our own small covers at Stone Hall there would frequently be a good show of Cocks, when a passing flight would drop in, and we have flushed as many as 50 of a morning. We often had Cocks in the kitchen garden, and among the rhododendrons and laurels on the lawn. The covers at Slebech are noted for Woodcocks, and in former years 60 would be bagged there in a day’s shoot.

In mild and wet weather the Cocks resort to the high furze on hill-sides, and in such places we have found them in considerable numbers. In snows, and in hard black frosts, they leave the covers for the coast. In the severe winter of 1880 great numbers were shot at St. David’s. A friend tells us that he then found one of the hotels there full of Woodcocks, and sportsmen would go out and return in a couple of hours with their pockets full.

All the little furzy combes running down towards the sea were thronged with them, and there was one little spot close to the stream which runs at the back of the old Cathedral where directly a Cock was shot another came and took its place, and this went on throughout the day. In the beautiful covers at Tregwynt which face the sea over 40 Cocks have been killed in a day during a deep snow. We have flushed numbers of Cocks some seasons up to the end of March, when we have been fishing the Cleddy, and working our way through covers bordering the stream, and as the Woodcock nests early in the year we felt convinced that some of these late birds must remain in the county to breed. We have seen a very pretty variety that was shot in the south of the county, that had its back and shoulders thickly mottled with small patches of white.

Sir Hugh Owen has told us that he has shot ” small dark Cocks of only 7 ozs.” Many sportsmen look upon these extra small birds as a distinct species, asserting that when they are flushed they dart off at once, like a Snipe ; but Cocks vary much in size and weight, and we believe these very small-sized birds to be merely the young birds of the year, and the offspring, probably, of small birds.

We invariably found the labourers, and farm people in general, when we were out shooting, eager to give us information respecting any “cyffylog” or Woodcock, they had seen ; it was evidently in their opinion, the sportsman’s bird, and in comparison they attached but small importance to the “petrusen,” the Partridges, or to the “faysants; ” next to the Woodcock a hare, doubtless because of its extreme rarity, the “ysgyfarnog” was considered worthy of being reported.

As is well known, Woodcocks gladly avail themselves of any holly bushes in the covers, because of the dry and warm shelter afforded by their thick leaves. If, as a holly bush is approached, the ground beneath it is carefully scrutinised, the bird may sometimes be seen squatting, and we have frequently succeeded in espying one. We remember being present at a shoot at which, at the end of the day, four Cocks were found to be included in the bag, all four having been potted on the ground beneath the shelter of holly-bushes.

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Woodcock in Pembrokeshire

Woodcock

Scolopax rusticola – CYFFYLOG – Winter visitor and passage migrant.

Woodcock – research

A map of woodcock ringing recoveries of birds wintering in Pembrokeshire, and a link to the original report.

Woodcock – 1994

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 […]

Woodcock – 1980s winter

Scolopax rusticola – CYFFYLOG – Winter visitor and passage migrant The BTO winter atlas showed that Woodcocks were present in the majority of 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84. The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents over 4 birds seen in a […]

Woodcock – 1968-72 breeding

Red = breeding confirmed Orange = breeding probable Yellow = breeding possible More about the Woodcock in Pembrokeshire

Woodcock – 1949

Species account from the Birds of Pembrokeshire, 1949, by Lockley, Ingram and Salmon.

Woodcock – 1894

Scolopax rusticula – An autumn visitor, doubtless also a resident in limited numbers. Although we have no instance of a Woodcock’s nest having been found in the county, it must certainly breed occasionally, if not regularly, in some of the large covers. We had always formed to ourselves large expectations of the sport to be had in Pembrokeshire in […]