18 November 2012

Migrant Woodcock

With clear signs over the last week or so of an arrival of Woodcock into the UK from the Continent, Jaffa and I decided to search the south-east Devon heaths this evening to see if we could find any. Jaffa had some some success last Thursday evening with a couple of birds on one of the heathland tracks, and with the weather remaining settled we set off with high hopes, but nothing could have prepared us for what happened. In just 15 minutes we had a total of 6 birds on the deck (including 2 flushed), all along a single 100 metre stretch of trail passing through an area of wet grass. Four showed well but only one hung around long enough to grab a couple of record shots (well, at least it did for those of us with camera at the ready!!!).

Eurasian Woodcock, 1 of 5 seen (6 recorded in total) this evening

These birds are almost certainly Continental migrants. Over 90% of Woodcock breed in Fennoscandia and Russia and move south and west for the winter, arriving in force in the UK from October to December. The Birds of Devon Bird (Tyler 2010) describes Woodcock as a "locally common winter visitor and passage migrant, has bred", and the 2010 Devon Bird Report shows the mean average number of birds recorded in the county between 2005 and 2009 being just <1 or 0 between May and September, rising to 5 in October, and then increasing sharply to 25 in November. By midwinter, the Migration Atlas (2002) estimates that Continental Woodcocks outnumber local residents by 13:1.

Also this evening, 3 Roe Deer were seen and 1+ Tawny Owl and a few Redwing were heard.

1st year male Blackbird. One of 30-40 Blackbirds seen in just a small area around
the Otter Estuary today

This morning, a large number of Blackbirds (30-40), presumably also mainly continental birds, were evident around the Otter Estuary, with several groups feeding on berries. Also logged were 3 Kingfishers, 2m Bullfinch, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff (H), 1 Cetti's Warbler (H), 1+ Water Rail (H). The scrapes are looking brilliant and held 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 1 Curlew, 1 Redshank, 2 Lapwing, 95 Wigeon, c40 Teal, 1 Shelduck and 20 Pied Wagtail. On the estuary itself, 5 more Wigeon, 1 Redshank, 3 Little Grebe, several Rock Pipit and 2 Little Egret were noted, and 5 Ringed Plover dropped onto Budleigh Salterton beach.

Kingfisher, Otter Estuary. At least 3 were seen today.


  1. I feel sorry for the torch bearer!

    1. Oh me too! I bet he won't keep his camera in his bag again!