Eurasian Woodcock Satellite Tagging and Tracking Project a great success: The Voyage of St. Brendan!

St. Patrick stays elusive but St. Brendan “the Navigator” returns for Paddy’s Weekend Celebrations!

For those of you who have been following our on-going research project you will be aware that after satellite tagging St. Patrick and St. Brendan in March last year they migrated to their summer breeding grounds in Russia and Latvia respectively (see map below). The vast majority of Woodcock in Ireland are winter visitors, usually arriving in Oct/Nov and migrating back to their summer breeding grounds in March/April of the following year.

Great data was received over the summer and autumn months, however as winter approached the data from the tags diminished until it eventually ceased in October of last year.

St. Brendan with tag attached

St. Brendan with tag attached

Luke Harman with St. Patrick

Luke Harman with St. Patrick

To enable the tags to be light enough for the birds to carry without detriment, the tags are solar powered and weigh in at an impressive 9.5 grams. Unfortunately, due to the low light levels over the winter months, coupled with the bird’s largely nocturnal lifestyle it appears the tags reach a threshold where they are unable to receive enough light to sufficiently charge the solar cells.

Migration routes of St. Patrick and St. Brendan (up to Oct 2013)

Migration routes of St. Patrick and St. Brendan (up to Oct 2013)

This silence is a nail-biting time for us researchers as we have no definitive answer as to why the tags are not transmitting. Even-though the likelihood is low light levels, we can’t help but think what if the tag has failed, or the bird fallen foul to one of the many challenges it faces, eg. predation, hunting or just old age!

As spring approached we hoped the tags would kick into action and, with great relief and joy, on the 10th March St. Brendan’s tag started transmitting again. Incredibly, his position was almost identical to the position where he was tagged on the 31st March 2013 (see aerial photo). Unfortunately, to date, we haven’t received recent transmissions from St. Patrick. Here’s hoping he pops up soon. Maybe he’ll put in a show stopping appearance on the 17th! Watch this space!

St. Brendan’s tagging and current locations.

St. Brendan’s tagging and current locations.

This proves that although we didn’t receive any transmissions from the birds or tags for several months, it doesn’t mean the birds are not alive and well. Also important to consider is that even though we have resent transmissions from St. Brendan, it doesn’t mean that he has just arrived back to Ireland. The likely-hood is he returned at the end of last year along with the majority of Woodcock over-wintering in Ireland.

This project was part of a study conducted in collaboration with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust in the UK. Two more woodcock were tagged in Ireland as part of this study (Amy and Elissa) and although Elissa is still quiet, Amy is back in Galway where she was tagged last year. For the most up to date information on all the woodcock tagged visit

Finally, we are in the fortunate position that we have had two more tags sponsored this year. The tags arrived yesterday and we aim to deploy them in the coming weeks so we will keep you posted on our progress.

At this point I would like to thank all who have made this project possible, especially our sponsors over the last two years.

We look forwards to the continuation of this project and hope it is as successful as last year.

For more information on Woodcock please consult the Woodcock Watch website or contact us on the details below:

Signing off for now,



BEES Woodcock Research Group,

Luke Harman, Barry O’Mahony, Dr. Mark Wilson, Dr. John Quinn and Prof. John O’Halloran,

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES),

University College Cork,

Distillery Fields,

North Mall,


Tel: 00353 (0)21 490 4668




Federation of County Cork Gun Clubs

National Association of Regional Game Councils

Mayo Regional Game Council

Monaghan Regional Game Council

Waterford Regional Game Council

Kerry Regional Game Council




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