French hunters are concerned about the future of woodcocks
Photo: Mark Kras
This year the winter woodcock flew to France to a much smaller number than usual. Autumn migration has been sluggish almost everywhere, and experts and hunters have a low density of forest waders.
Despite the extremely low number of woodcock in France as a whole, their distribution in the country is extremely heterogeneous. There were areas of mass gatherings woodcock with a very high density. Unfortunately, in these areas, and passes the basic hunting.
According to experts of the National Office of hunting and wildlife France, low numbers of woodcock this winter in France is mainly due to two factors. On the one hand, there was a high mortality of birds in January and February 2010 on the wintering grounds as a result of prolonged cold weather and the concentration of birds in the coastal area of France. On the other hand, last summer in Russia, where most of the nesting populations of the European woodcock, stood out extremely adverse conditions for breeding. Forest fires and prolonged drought had a negative impact on the woodcock, primarily by reducing the widespread availability of basic fodder. Most dry period occurred in the moulting and preparations for the autumn migration (July-August). Autumn woodcock banding in Russia confirmed this: the proportion of juveniles in catches has declined by about 20% of normal.
In this regard, the Moscow Scientific Group «Woodcock» in the framework of long-term international cooperation with French colleagues in early November sent to the National Hunting and Wildlife France corresponding note the rationale for the reduction of hunting woodcock in the French winter. The appeal was heard. In addition, the findings of experts from Russia and studies have confirmed the age structure of woodcocks, flew to France for the winter.
The country operates a network «Woodcock» ONCFS / FNC / FDC, which brings together some 400 observers: specialists from the National Office of hunting and wildlife of France, the French Federation of Hunters and national club of hunters woodcocks. These monitors provide oversight of the abundance of the species during migration, wintering, breeding season in France.
On the map of France marked in yellow departments in which hunting is temporarily closed, blue — the departments in which the rate of production woodcock reduced or restrictions.
The age ratio woodcock represented in this autumn-winter season downward trend of the decade to decade, especially noticeable since mid-November. Furthermore, these figures were much lower than the average for the last 8 seasons. The age ratio (the percentage of young in catching), calculated at 10 December 2010 on the basis of catches in 2162, was only 50.4%, down 10.3% from the average for the past 8 seasons for the same period (60.7% ) and it is at the level of the ratio of the value of age, registered in autumn 2002 – the lowest in the last decade (50% in 1 455 trapping).
The age ratio with an average deviation of 10% is clearly expresses a low breeding success in spring and summer 2010.
Regional distribution of the age ratio and compares it to the average of previous seasons clearly point to a general decrease in performance. Thus, we are talking about fundamental phenomena pertaining to the entire population of wintering woodcock. The most significant shortage of young birds registered in the Champagne-Ardenne (16%), Languedoc-Roussillon (17%) and in Auvergne, Limousin (19%).
Weather conditions in November and December in France exacerbated the unfavorable situation for the populations of woodcock. Cold and heavy snowfalls in many parts of France, which began in late November and lasted almost all of December prematurely ousted woodcock to the coastal areas of the English Channel and the Atlantic, where the main focus of their number. In other areas, woodcocks are distributed in small clusters, depending on the available habitat. In central France woodcock is very small.
National Hunting and Wildlife France addressed recommendations to limit the hunting of woodcock in the autumn-winter season 2010-2011,. After that, about 35 departments of France (their number is gradually increasing) decided to change the rules of production woodcocks. Different departments of the maximum permitted production is reduced in different ways. For example, in the department of Loire from 18 December until the end of the hunting season it is produced 1 woodcock per hunter per month. In the department Rhône from December 18 until January 30, – 1 produced woodcock per hunter per day of hunting. Since January 31, cocking in this department will be prohibited, although in normal years, it closed 20 February.
Currently, hunting is closed in some northern departments in connection with snowfalls and prolonged frosts: Nord, Oise, Seine-Maritime, Air, Ardennes, Meurthe et Moselle, Territoire de Belfort.
All these measures are necessary to preserve the species. All the more so before the end of winter is still far.
Maria Chernetskii, special correspondent of «horn» Parizh18 January 2011 at 16:00