During our thermal nocturnal surveys on the Ings and surrounding farmland last month, we noticed a dramatic increase in the number of Woodcock feeding after dark. Their timing couldn’t have been better, occurring on the full moon - the November full moon is often referred to as the ‘Woodcock moon’. Traditionally it was thought that Woodcock would wait for moonlit nights before crossing the North Sea to arrive, sometimes appearing in large numbers along the East Coast before moving onward throughout the country.
Around 100,000 breeding birds in the UK increase to in excess of a million birds wintering here, as birds from Eastern Europe move west in search of milder conditions. These birds spend the nights feeding (largely on earthworms), on farmland, pasture and the Ings grasslands after dark, before then spending the daytime in dense cover in the undergrowth of hedgerows and woodlands. Here their cryptic camouflage comes into its own as they melt away into the leaf litter on the woodland floor. When visiting the reserve keep a look out at dawn and dusk as birds fly on and off the Ings.