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I saw a woodcock in my garden this morning. Are they rare here?

Sent in by Mr R Jones, London

Like its close relative, the snipe, the woodcock has a beautiful, barred, mottled brown 'cryptic' plumage which acts as excellent camouflage in its woodland or heathland home. This characteristic, along with being most active at night, makes it of our most difficult birds to see.
 
Almost 10,000 pairs breed in the UK, but during the autumn period, these numbers swell with the arrival of thousands of birds from north-eastern Europe: as many as 800,000 may spend their winter here. After crossing the North Sea, these tired migrants can pitch down almost anywhere to refuel before continuing their journey.

Woodcocks are not rare in this country, and there will be many in south-east England at the moment, but it is quite unusual to see one in a garden in London.

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