Forest sandpiper woodcock is a traditional hunting object throughout the natural habitat: at the spring roding, autumn descent and at the wintering sites. Hunters of all countries are interested in the fact that the resource is not depleted. Woodcock hunting is especially popular in France and French national hunting agency (ONCFS) sponsors the program of long-term monitoring, including in Russia. The purpose of the cooperation is to develop protection measures to maintain the population number.

Main areas of research:

· Rapid assessment of wintering conditions of the species before the spring hunting season in Russia with appropriate recommendation to the state bodies of hunting management of the Russian Federation;

· Study of spring migration features;

· The counts during roding;

· Study of nesting biology of the woodcock, creation and updating of electronic databases of nests and broods, nestling ringing;

· Study of autumn migration. Organisation of woodcock ringing during autumn migration, counts at the sites of night feeding;

· Estimation of woodcock hunting by hunters in Russia.

Every year on the last Saturday of May we organise the counting of woodcock at the evening roding. About three thousand volunteers including ornithologists, hunters, gamekeepers and game managers participate in this event. They fill in counting cards, that we use to estimate relative number of roding woodcocks. Every year the data from approximately two thousand observation points from 38 regions of woodcock nesting area is processed.

In joint Russian-French expeditions we ring, study biology of this species, the success of reproduction. Moscow scientific group has ringed 3424 woodcocks throughout the years and more than 300 rings were returned. We identified main migration ways of woodcocks nesting in european part of Russia. A high level of philopatry of the species was proved — after wintering birds return to the place of birth, and for breeding and stops during migration they use the same places from year to year.

Analysis of ringing database has shown that from woodcocks ringed during wintering, migration and in Russia most of the rings were returned from France (863) and England (85). Much fewer are Italian (17), Spanish (13), German (12) and Dutch (11); 24 are from Baltic states. 6-8 rings are marked Ireland, Finland, Denmark and Poland, two rings are from Belgium, Hungary, Switzerland and Japan, and one are from Abkhazia, Austria, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Iran, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Woodcocks, nesting in Russia, use as wintering sites and stops during migration 34 countries where they are also hunted, Every year from 133 000 to 181 000 woodcocks are hunted during spring roding and from 41000 to 74000 in autumn. In years of low woodcock breeding success or harsh wintering, recommendations to limit hunting were sent to Russian and French hunting agencies.

According to our monitoring data, number of woodcock breeding population in European Russia in the years of research remained stable with small fluctuations depending on the weather conditions of the year, breeding success and wintering conditions.  A little decrease in number was registered in the last 5 years as a result of summer droughts and severe winters.

Project coordinator – candidate of biological Sciences, chief editor of the Russian hunting newspaper Sergey Fokin (fokinwoodcock @ mail.ru)

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