Monday, 19 January 2015

Free woodcock sponsorship for schools

by James Swyer

The GWCT is always keen to promote the importance of game conservation to future generations and in late 2014 we started to offer schools the opportunity to track a woodcock through our Woodcock Watch programme at no cost to them.

Fifteen schools have already signed up to the programme, and have been keenly tracking their bird as it makes its return journey. Interest has been widespread, with schools scattered from Norfolk to Belfast and covering all age ranges from pre-schools all the way up to sixth form colleges. All participants receive a pack including a certificate of sponsorship, factsheet, details of how to track their woodcock and regular email updates about the bird’s location and other relevant GWCT work – all free of charge.

I am delighted with the early feedback and have received telephone calls and emails from teachers telling me that ‘this has brought science to life for our pupils’, ‘it’s generating a lot of excitement’ and ‘my after school club love the fact we are sponsoring a real bird’.

Giving schoolchildren the opportunity to track their own bird as it travels thousands of miles could foster a real passion for our countryside, wildlife or science and we provide a series of lesson plans, produced by the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation Education Trust, to help teachers fit this all in the demands of the National Curriculum. All of these resources (and many more) are freely available to teachers nationwide via the TES website.

By providing information suitable for both Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 (ages 7-14), we are complementing the excellent work undertaken by our advisory department and Katrina Candy and introducing the importance of game management to schools to a younger age group.

I also hope to introduce the initiative to the Scouts and Girlguiding networks to show the value of our countryside and a bird most children would be unaware of.

If you would like more information about how your children’s school can apply for their free sponsorship pack, please contact me at or call 01425 651021. If you are a teacher, teaching assistant or run an after school club, Scouts or Girl Guides group, please get in touch and I would be happy to send you a sponsorship pack.

Please help us continue our woodcock research

Friday, 16 January 2015

Taking stock whilst catching woodcock

We were out woodcock-catching again this week, adding to our totals at one of our ringing sites.

Project leader Andrew Hoodless had an impressive session on Monday night with eighteen woodcock caught; ten of which were recaptures. This is what this project is really all about; the investment in ringing is reaped when we recapture previously-ringed birds. Collecting repeated biometric measures from different marked individuals will, over time, improve our understanding of the bird’s movements and changes in condition. It does, however, come at some cost – especially on nights like Monday. The best woodcock-catching weather is wet and windy, which it certainly was, and Andrew ended the night soaked through and freezing cold.

We were out again last night with far less success. There was enough wind, but it was a very clear starlit night, and most of the birds we saw flushed. We managed five between us (mostly Andrew) and this did include one recaptured bird. Frustrated by having missed a lot of birds, I ended the night by catching something other than a woodcock. This obliging stock dove sat nicely, and made an interesting and unusual addition to our night’s total.

Please help us continue our woodcock research