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'Siberia is so big, it’s almost more an idea than a place'
Ian Frazier

The 'heart-stopping' migration of Siberia's feathered ambassadors to Britain and Ireland

By The Siberian Times reporter
05 July 2013

How satellite tracking unlocks nature's secrets enabling us to follow woodcocks on their epic flights.

Dr Andrew Hoodless, a world expert on the woodcock, explained: 'This state of the art technology is a dream come true because for the first time, we are able to understand some of the mysteries surrounding this elusive bird. Picture: woodcockwatch.com

One adult male - nicknamed Monkey by birdwatchers - has just completed a perilous 10,140 km flight from the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall to Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. His tracking device, fitted in February 2012, has helped experts and amateurs alike monitor his migration routes, with researchers estimating that he has flown more than 40,000 km during his lifetime. 

His latest movements show that back in his breeding grounds in Kransnoyarsk, he is not resting but making many of 'local' flights, which themselves cover big distances. 

As we write he is in the Yeniseisky District of Krasnoyarsk region, the second largest constituent of the Russian Federation. 

Another woodcock, a female named Crugith, was tagged on 7 March this year, also in southern Cornwall, in the extreme west of England. 

Overflying France and Germany, as well as Ukraine and Belarus, she notched up more than 7,000 km and is currently in the Pirovsky District of Krasnoyarsk, having made a more direct path than Monkey and significantly fewer flights within Siberia. 

Woody II was originally caught and tagged even further west in southern Ireland on 31 March this year. Since then this bird - its sex is uncertain - has travelled some 7,000 km to Evenkkiysky district - an area larger than Chile and fractionally smaller than Turkey - which is part of Kransnoyarsk region. 

Like Monkey, Woody II is making many shorter flights, hardly staying still, in Siberia. 

Woodcock, from Cornwall to Krasnoyarsk

Monkey's latest movements show that back in his breeding grounds in Kransnoyarsk, he is not resting but making many of 'local' flights, which themselves cover big distances. Picture: woodcockwatch.com

In all, 26 birds have had tiny satellite transmitters fitted over the last two years. They are among between 700,000 and 1.2 million of the birds which fly into the British Isles from eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia to spend their winters. Tracking shows the woodcock can fly up to 1200km over a 30 hour period. En route they stop for several days at a time to recover before resuming their adventurous journeys. 

Dr Andrew Hoodless, a world expert on the woodcock, explained: 'This state of the art technology is a dream come true because for the first time, we are able to understand some of the mysteries surrounding this elusive bird'.

'Being able to watch these birds 'live' through satellite technology is helping us to piece together an accurate picture of where these birds go to breed, their stop-over locations and how far they can travel in one flight.

'The speed and distance of their migrations is astounding and it is sometimes quite heart-stopping to watch their perilous journeys as they get blown off course or delayed by bad weather.'

Compared to other birds, little is known about the woodcock, said Dr Hoodless from the UK's Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

Woodcock, from Cornwall to Krasnoyarsk


Woodcock, from Cornwall to Krasnoyarsk

One adult male - nicknamed Monkey by birdwatchers - has just completed a perilous 10,140 km flight from the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall to Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. Picture: woodcockwatch.com

The woodcocks have a 'secretive nature' but the satellite tracking is helping to unmask them. 

'The information we gather through the satellite tracking will help inform international conservation policies for the woodcock in the future.'

He added: 'We have already started to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding this fascinating species'.

Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts can monitor these Siberian woodcocks in real time on the excellent http://www.woodcockwatch.com website - where you can also sponsor one of these remarkable birds.

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