Saturday 31st October comments: The ‘Woodcock Moon’ was shining bright last night over the Isle of May and sure enough today we’ve welcomed a good scattering of these northern migrants to the island.
Woodcock are cryptic woodland dwellers which breed in the UK but during the autumn these birds are bolstered by migrants from continental Europe. These birds are escaping the worst of the weather to the north and east of the UK as Scandinavia and Russia has the vast majority of breeding European Woodcock and they’ll move to warmer climes including the UK. Having overwintered, they’ll then return early the following spring when we can get one or two on the island as they head back. These great birds are a joy to watch as they often ‘explode’ underfoot (erupt out of the vegetation within a few feet of you) whilst you walk around the Isle. However others can be seen in more unusual places sometimes on the rocks as the photos above show.
But what is a Woodcock moon? Folklore has it that the first full moon in late October/early November (which is happening now – the photo of the moon above was taken last night over the Isle of May) brings a major arrival of Woodcocks to the British coast. Well we can’t deny it certainly worked last night as Woodcocks were arriving and even the BBC Autumnwatch team got in on the act filming them (so watch out for those appearing on screen).
However like any bird migration, it wasn’t all plain sailing for these migrants as one unsuspecting individual was chased by a Peregrine before being hit and falling into a heavy sea (big waves smashing around it). Amazingly, after the Peregrine circled twice (it couldn’t get the Woodcock off the sea surface) so it disappeared back to the island, the Woodcock took flight (albeit missing some feathers) and continued westbound to the mainland! A lucky escape indeed.