Woodcock’s Lament

April 15, 2018 at 12:48 pm

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This weeks photo of a female Woodcock settling on her eggs in a bluebell wood is just a past memory. It was taken as a colour print in 2005 when I spent five hours a day in my hide for three weeks waiting for the eggs to hatch. In those days Woodcock bred in most woodlands but today those very same woodlands have none. Instead there are now Buzzards in each of the woods. The birding hierarchy don’t seem to be able to link the 50% decline in Woodcock numbers, over the last ten years, to the more than 50% increase in Buzzard numbers over the same period.
One day before the eggs of this Woodcock hatched I had direct evidence of this threat. Our Woodcock had been relaxed on the eggs for several hours when all of a sudden she crouched flat out in the nest and froze ┬áSeconds later she exploded off the eggs with a Buzzard two foot behind her in full chase. Remarkably twenty minutes later she walked back onto the eggs and continued to incubate as if nothing had happened. The following day the eggs hatched – but Woodcock have not nested in that wood since the close escape.
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