Showing posts with label woodcock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label woodcock. Show all posts

Woodcock Banding – An American Woodcock Society Film

Woodcock banding is probably the closest thing to actual upland hunting you can do in the spring, and is an extremely rewarding activity for any bird lover turned dog lover or dog lover turned bird lover, depending on the category of upland bird fanatic you place yourself in. Love for the dog work and love for the bird are the greatest drivers for the few hundred permitted individuals in Minnesota and Michigan who obsessively take to the dense covers where American woodcock nest during the spring. Ticks, poison ivy, indescribable mosquito hatches, and navigating the thickest of thick covers through thorns and eye-poking branches is not for the faint of heart, but once you hold a fuzzy timberdoodle chick in your hand for the first time, it is worth every moment of the search.


Cutting-Edge Satellite Research: The GoogleEarth® maps below show the migratory locations of American woodcock outfitted with satellite transmitters (PTTs) as part of cutting-edge research conducted by the USGS Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, USGS Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and the USFWS.
These solar-powered PTTs are small enough to fit on a woodcock’s back during migration and powerful enough to transmit multiple locations to the ARGOS satellite network every two days (10 hours on, 48 hours off). The calendar can be used to see where woodcock were on a given date. The points can be dragged along the migration path to see the relative locations of other woodcock on that date.
Other cooperators providing assistance and funding are the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society (RGS and AWS), Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, The Glassen Foundation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the University of Arkansas, and Woodcock Limited.

Learning Essential Information About Woodcock:  

Tracking the American woodcock

SHERBURNE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE -- Clusters of headlamps bob through the field of grasses and young willow shoots well after dark.

"We got one," calls a voice from one cluster. "You guys?"
"Six!" is the cheery response.

The two clusters meet amid what might to the outsider look like a series of badminton nets erected for who knows what purpose. The headlamps illuminate hands holding half a dozen cloth sacks, each occasionally squirming.

Inside each is a live American woodcock.

This was the scene this month as a team of researchers and volunteers set out to catch woodcocks and fit them with small satellite transmitters. The badminton nets are "mist nets" that birds simply fly into unawares as they head toward evening roosting grounds.

The project, headed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, aims to unravel lingering mysteries surrounding the odd and diminutive migratory game bird.

With a long beak and toes, the American woodcock looks similar to a shorebird. Yet it lives generally in the woods, using its flexible beak -- which it can open just at the tip if it so desires -- to forage on insects and grubs in the damp forest floor. Adding to its idiosyncrasies: It's eyes appear sort of backward; in fact, its brain is essentially upside down.

And then, of course, there is its name, which can't help but evoke a chuckle in boys of a certain age. Its alias is downright silly: the timberdoodle.

Flushing woodcocks in Michigan

By Bob Gwizdz Outdoors columnist

Gena, Chuck Riley’s more experienced German shorthair (he also had a young dog with us) was locked on point in about the snarliest stuff you could imagine — under a sprawling autumn olive in the midst of a thicket intertwined with multiflora rose. There were two immediate questions: How were we going to get in there to flush the bird and, when we did, how were going to shoot it?

Riley told me to get ready so I positioned myself between a couple of autumn olives where there was a small window of sky. When Riley got in on the bird, a woodcock burst out and flew the only place I could get a shot at it. I did. The dogs were on it immediately.

“Well that’s 18 minutes,” said Riley, who keeps track of these things when he’s hunting. ”Yesterday we have had 10 flushes in the first 18 minutes.”

We were hunting in southern Michigan, on a state game area that shall remain nameless (as I don’t want to see your truck parked there the next time we go). It’s one of a number of places Riley bird hunts well south of what most folks consider to be woodcock territory.

“I started out hunting in southern Michigan with Andy Amman back in the mid-1970s,” said Riley, a Department of Environmental Quality retiree and involved conservationist. “Actually, we found quite a few grouse down here back then, too. And I’ve talked to guys who said there were a lot more in the 60s and early 70s.”

Grouse in southern Michigan seem rarer than Detroit Lions championships these days. But woodcock? There are plenty from opening to closing day, though they’re not always there for long periods of time.

2014 WOODCOCK - Counts - Central Region Down 7.3%

American Woodcock Singing-ground Survey data for 2014 indicate that the index for singing American woodcock (Scolopax minor) males in the Eastern Management Region was not significantly different from 2013; while there was a significant decline of 7.3% in the Central Management Region. There was a significant declining 10-year trend for woodcock heard in both Management Regions during 2004-14. This marks first time in 10 years that there has been a declining 10-year trend in the Eastern Management Region and the first time in 3 years there has been a declining 10-year trend in the Central Management Region. Both regions have a significant, long-term (1968-14) declining trend (-1.0%/year for the Eastern Management Region and -0.9%/year for the Central Management Region). 

The 2013 recruitment index for the U.S. portion of the Eastern Region (1.60 immatures per adult female) was 3.2% less than the 2012 index and 2.3% less than the long-term regional index, while the recruitment index for the U.S. portion of the Central Region (1.54 immatures per adult female) was 7.2% less than the 2012 index and was 1.4% less than the long-term regional index. Estimates from the Harvest Information Program indicated that U.S. woodcock hunters in the 
Eastern Region spent 136,700 days afield and harvested 62,500 woodcock during the 2013-14 season, while in the Central Region, hunters spent 306,100 days afield and harvested 180,600 woodcock.

See the full FWS report


Significant decline of 7.3% in the Central Management Region.

Eastern Management Region was not significantly different from 2013

RGS Expands Forest Habitat Effort with Creation of the American Woodcock Society

Coraopolis, PA - The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) is proud to announce the creation of the American Woodcock Society (AWS), a branch of RGS initiated to expand forest habitat efforts and upland hunting opportunities to new landscapes across the nation.

            “The formation of the American Woodcock Society is a landmark event for forest conservation in the United States. The Ruffed Grouse Society has been the leader in woodcock conservation for decades. The creation of AWS expands existing efforts while advancing habitat creation and membership reach to additional regions that may not have ruffed grouse populations,” said RGS/AWS President and CEO John Eichinger.

            While grouse and woodcock share similar habitats, they don’t coexist across all landscapes, and AWS advances forest management and mission outreach to states that may not have grouse populations, especially in the southern United States where the majority of woodcock spend the winter months. Enhancing habitat in these regions also benefits many songbirds and other wildlife that rely upon young forest habitats. In addition, these regions continue to have a strong bird-hunting culture, and the habitat created by RGS/AWS will strengthen and expand these sporting traditions.

            “The goal of our organization is, and always has been, to preserve our sporting traditions by creating healthy forests for grouse, woodcock and other forest wildlife. At this crucial time in forest management from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, the AWS allows us to positively affect our nation’s forests and to spread awareness of our mission to a significantly larger group of supporters. The bottom line is that RGS and AWS will be able to collectively benefit more members, officials, conservationists and hunters who are passionate about the birds we love,” Eichinger concluded.

            The AWS will begin operations immediately, and anyone interested in AWS habitat efforts, chapters or membership can contact RGS/AWS at (412) 262-4044 or

Two Woodcock Points - Bigfork MN - Video

I was grouse hunting near Bigfork, MN Sept 23, 2011 and was able to capture video of two separate Woodcock points.

It was the Friday before the Woodcock season opened.  It was fun to get a couple of nice solid points on them.

The spot that we hunted has been my best grouse area for the past 15 years but this time we didn’t move a single grouse.  This was the first time that this had happened at this area.

For More Bird Hunting Videos Visit

Volunteers help Michigan DNRE biologists band woodcock

For the majority of pointing-dog enthusiasts, nothing compares to autumn, when hunting season is open and hunters can spend their days with their best friends in pursuit of upland birds. But for a small minority of bird-dog aficionados, there's even more fun to be had in spring.

Spring is the other bird season: banding season, when hunters exchange their firearms for landing nets and pursue woodcock with the express purpose of capturing them, only to release them as soon as they've been festooned with small metal leg bands.

From April until June, a small contingent of dedicated bird-dog owners takes to the wood lots of Michigan to locate and band the needle-nosed migrants. The bands that are returned by hunters provide important information to wildlife managers about the population, distribution and life history of woodcock.

Woodcock are migratory birds that are more closely related to shore birds than they are to other upland game birds, but have adapted to forested habitat. Woodcock prefer early-age forests with moist soils.
Mottled brown birds with long beaks that they use to feed by probing the moist earth for invertebrates, woodcock are so well camouflaged that their first instinct, when approached, is to freeze. That makes them perfect for pursuit with pointing dogs.

The small metal band on a woodcock's leg will provide biologists information on the population, distribution and life history of the birds when hunters return them from birds they've taken
Michigan leads the nation in woodcock banding, largely because of its volunteer army of woodcock banders. Every year, volunteers spend more than 1,000 hours in Michigan wood lots, banding 1,000 or more mostly recently hatched woodcock.

Michigan has been in the forefront of banding since 1960, when federal wildlife officials asked state natural resources agencies in woodcock production states to help band large numbers of woodcock for a population study. Michigan wildlife biologist G. A. "Andy" Ammann participated in the banding effort and helped refine the technique of using pointing dogs to locate woodcock broods.

Woodcock are closely related to shore birds but have adapted to the young forested uplands
By 1965, six people, mostly professional wildlife biologists, were actively banding woodcock in Michigan. But as time progressed, Ammann and others trained volunteers to join the effort. By the mid 1990s, there were about 100 volunteers banding woodcock in the state.

The drill is fairly simple: Volunteers take to the forests with their dogs. The dogs point nesting or brooding woodcock hens. Using long-handled nets, the volunteers capture the hens -- if they can - which they'll band before they release them. But they also look for nests or chicks on the ground.

When a brooding hen is flushed, she'll typically fly just a short distance and then feign a broken wing, a behavior designed to draw the bander away from the chicks. It's a tip-off to banders that chicks are present.

Woodcock chicks, like this week-old bird, depend on their natural camouflage to avoid danger
The mottled brown and yellow chicks blend perfectly into the early spring vegetation; it takes eagle eyes to spot them as they remain motionless, waiting for the perceived danger to pass. After the banders have searched the area visually, identifying what chicks they can find, the banders gently pick up the chicks. That usually prompts the chicks to start peeping; the calls typically spur the remaining chick to begin running, making them more visible.

The banders work quickly to minimize stress to the chicks. They measure the chick's beak to help determine its age. (Woodcock are born with a 14 mm beak and it grows 2 mm a day). They attach a thin metal band with a serial number to the chick's leg and record all relevant data. Then they release the chicks. The hen and chicks soon re-unite. In fact, many woodcock banders recount having a hen fly back and sit nearby while they band the chicks.

Not just anyone can band woodcock. Would-be woodcock banders must attend a mandatory workshop, study under the guidance of an experienced bander, and have their dogs certified as able to perform the task without jeopardizing the birds' safety. The Department of Natural Resources and Environment issues permits to allowing individuals to band woodcock.

Volunteer Randy Strouse and his English setter Allie hunt woodcock for banding every spring
Randy Strouse, a retired skilled tradesman in an auto plant, has been banding woodcock since 1991. Strouse says he tries to spend at least 60 hours in the woods banding each spring and usually bands more than 50 birds, though he has surpassed 80 some years.

"I hunt, just like anyone else, but if I see a woodcock on the ground and it has a band, I won't shoot it when it flushes," Strouse said. "If it's this year's bird, you wouldn't be able to gather any information from it."

Strouse will gladly tell you he'd rather band woodcock than hunt them.
"The banding community really likes doing this," Strouse said. "If I had to give up one or the other, I'd give up hunting."

Banding woodcock makes it possible for hunters to contribute to conservation efforts in a hands-on manner. And it makes the whole effort practical.

"Without the volunteer banders, we wouldn't be able to band anywhere near the number of woodcock we band each year," said Al Stewart, the DNRE's upland game bird specialist. "It's the main reason Michigan leads the nation in the number of woodcock banded."

Banders are busy in the Michigan woods right now and will continue through early June, by which time the bulk of the chicks have developed enough that they can fly and further banding efforts are fruitless.

Original MI DNR article

American Woodcock Migration Mapping System - Reactived

 Woodcock Migration Mapping will be Active from September 2012 through April 2013

Submit Daily Migration Activity Report 

Access Historical Maps and Summaries 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 95
Welcome to the Ruffed Grouse Society’s National American Woodcock Migration Mapping System. In partnership with, the online authority in waterfowl migration tracking, RGS started providing real-time tracking of the annual American woodcock migration in 2006 -- for the first time in history. It has continued each year since. The advanced GIS mapping system relies on daily migration data provided by our members and online readers. Users enter the zip-code for the area they're reporting on, then select if the woodcock activity in that area is Light, Medium, Heavy, or at its Peak.
**The map is a real-time summary of daily (24-hour) entries which reset each midnight, so we encourage our visitors to report each day they encounter woodcock. To view prior 24-hour or longer prior period historical maps, click the Historical Maps and Summaries link.

More Info and Complete RGS Article

400-acre habitat to honor Howard birder

Scrubby Garrett terrain will preserve woodcock, Aelred Geis' legacy of determination