Woodcock in Cambridge gardens

In the November issue of the birdwatchers’ journal, British Birds, a local birder, Christoph Zockler, regrets the apparent disappearance from Wicken Fen of Woodcock as a breeding bird. According to the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust in Britain we have a   resident but declining breeding population estimated at 78,000 male Woodcocks (males can be counted more easily than females because of their “roding” display flights in spring) and a total wintering population that could number 1.5 million individuals.

Most of our winter birds come from Russia and central Europe.   Before bird ringing, in the 19th century birdwatchers believed migrating Goldcrests hitched a ride in the feathers of these wintering Woodcocks! See my November blog about Goldcrests. The Woodcock is a bird of woodland cover and looks like a cross between a snipe, with its long bill, and a partridge. When disturbed it erupts from cover in a panic and for a moment you wonder just what is happening! What is it?

Below: Woodcock (Game and Woodland Game Conservancy)

woodcockIn frosty conditions birds often move to urban areas where it is slightly warmer and the soil softer allowing them to probe for earthworms. I recently disturbed birds from a well-used dog walking path behind Carisbrooke Road, off Histon Road, and a garden in Lensfield Road. In the past I have disturbed birds from a front garden in Huntingdon Road and another from a rear garden in Tavistock Road.

If you have a garden or nearby park with tree or shrub cover or an undisturbed area it is worth looking for this interesting and unusual bird. All garden sightings are worth recording; please send me any records and I will forward them to the County recorder.

magpiesOne for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird
You must not miss”

How about 26! The photo shows part of a rowdy group of 26 Magpies at a pre-roost gathering at dusk in Logan’s Meadow Local Nature Reserve, Chesterton. Within minutes they vanished into dense cover and complete silence.

Bob Jarman


December 2016