Birdwatch: Woodcock numbers boosted by cousins visiting from abroad

A woodcock.   Picture: Michael Flowers
A woodcock. Picture: Michael Flowers
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WINTER is the time when most encounters with the woodcock take place.

Britain has its own resident population of these odd birds, waders that, unlike the rest of the family, spend much of their lives crouching down unseen on forest floors.

But from November onwards this population is boosted by many thousands of woodcock arriving from Northern and Eastern Europe to escape the freezing continental winter and at this time of year the UK and Irish population reaches close to 1.5 million individuals.

Newly arrived birds, still exhausted from their marathon flights, can turn up almost anywhere in town centres, parks and gardens and many can come to grief.

A typical encounter was made by David Hardwick who lives in the village of Brierley near Barnsley.

As he went to open his garage doors he heard a loud thud, turned round and saw a large bird with a long thick beak rolling around on the floor in front of a large window.

It was a woodcock which had been in his garden and when he surprised it had flown into the window and knocked itself out.

It managed to struggle to its feet, fly to a nearby fence and eventually away, but not before David had had chance to admire its beautiful mottled, owl-like plumage which helps the woodcock to blend in perfectly with leaf litter on the woodland floor.

Sightings along the Yorkshire coast included a bittern flushed from the small pool at the end of Carr Naze, Filey, a swift species seen over Scarborough on Saturday and black and red-throated divers and black-necked grebes seen at Scarborough Harbour and in the South Bay.

Eight jack snipe were flushed along Taylor Way, Seamer.

A razorbill was reported inland at the Tophill Low reserve, kittiwake at Old Moor and red-breasted merganser at Wykeham Lakes near Scarborough.

A long-tailed duck and great white egret were at Hornsea Mere and another great white egret on the lower lake at Yearsley Moor, North Yorkshire.

Excellent news from the Spurn Bird Observatory Trust which, faced with the loss to the sea of its existing premises, has purchased a replacement property in Kilnsea which it hopes to have open for visiting birders by Easter.

The trust has now launched an appeal to raise £150,000 to reduce the mortgage taken out to make the purchase. To donate go to https://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/spurnbirdobservatory/newobservatory via the observatory’s website.

Michael Flowers is now taking bookings for his 10-week East Yorkshire birdwatching courses starting on January 6. If guaranteed waxwings, long-eared owls or hawfinches turn up, he will ensure you see them.  

The majority of vacancies are on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. If you are interested in booking a place please contact him at: mflowers81@live.co.uk or on 07946 625688.