BTO/GWCT Woodcock Survey

This is an on-line survey – surveyors will be able to select their sites and enter data once the on-line systems are up and running in early 2013.

Woodcock is the only species of wading bird in Britain and Ireland that is adapted to breed in woodland, both broad-leaved and coniferous. Its plumage is superbly camouflaged to blend in with dead leaf litter and ground vegetation, where it may roost or make its nest; remaining motionless unless approached at very close quarters.

The breeding distribution covers much of Britain and Ireland, however, a considerable reduction in range has been indicated by the 2007-11 Breeding Atlas, since the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas (Sharrock 1976). It has been Amber listed as a bird of conservation concern as part of a wider breeding population decline in Europe.

The nocturnal habits and cryptic nature of this species makes it difficult to monitor the breeding population using our traditional survey methods, such as the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). However, a special survey method has been devised (during the Woodcock Survey 2003, PDF), which uses the counts of the territorial roding flights, undertaken by males at dusk and dawn, to estimate the number of individual males present.

The first breeding Woodcock Survey was undertaken in 2003 (PDF) estimated a breeding population of 78,000 males in Britain. Thus providing a baseline against which to assess future population change. During winter, it is estimated that up to 1.5 million individuals may be present in Britain and Ireland; mostly originating from northern Europe and western Russia.

The results of the 2013 Survey, run by BTO and GWCT, will be crucial in determining the extent of changes to the breeding population size and distribution.

Contact survey organiser Greg Conway (greg.conway@bto.org) if you have unanswered questions about survey methods or resources.

Register interest to participate in survey

If you would like to be contacted when the survey is ready to participate in, please fill in the form below.

Some information on the Woodcock Survey

The survey methodology is still being finalised and will be available as a comprehensive guide from the Resources page shortly. In the meantime, the notes below will provide an outline of what is required.

Background and Methods

This is an on-line survey – surveyors will be able to select their sites and enter data once the on-line systems are up and running in early 2013.

A total of 1500 survey sites (1-km squares) will be available, which have been randomly selected from within the known breeding range and, where possible, checked to ensure they all contain suitable habitat.  There will be 805 priority sites, which were surveyed in the 2003, and 695 new sites.

Within each site a single fixed count point will be selected, from which all observations are conducted. For Priority sites, we will provide the six-figure grid reference of the original 2003 survey point (to permit direct comparison with the previous survey) but surveyors of new sites will need to select their own count point.

Timing of Visits

The field methods will be the same as those used in 2003. A total of four visits will be required:

April: one daytime recce to establish the best place to locate the count point.

May to June: three visits to count point at dusk, at least one week apart, between 1st May and 30th June.

NOTE – if no woodcock are recorded on both of the first two dusk visits, there is no need to make the third visit.

Visit time and duration

The count period has been extended to 75 minutes compared to 60 minutes in 2003. Counts should commence 15 minutes before sunset and finish 60 minutes after sunset, giving total survey duration of 75 minutes. Times of individual Woodcock passes will be recorded so that data for 60 minute and 75 minute counts can be compared at the analysis stage.

What to record

During the 75 minute survey period all observations of Woodcock (in flight), both by sight and sound, will be recorded to the nearest minute and logged.  Some basic information on Habitat and Deer presence will also be collected between mid-May and mid-June.