WILDLIFE artist and director of The Woodcock Network, Owen Williams, will be speaking about a new woodcock research project on the Llŷn Peninsular at this weekend’s inaugural GWCT Welsh Game Fair.

Mr Williams, who is also the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Wales chair, will give a talk entitled ‘Woodcock in Wales – sport and science’ in the GWCT Nick Williams Theatre on Saturday morning.

The GWCT Welsh Game Fair, which is being held at the Vaynol Estate, near Bangor, opens on Friday and runs until Sunday. Organised by Stable Events in partnership with the GWCT aims to be a celebration of the Welsh countryside and conservation.

Owen’s lifelong fascination for the secretive woodcock has led him to contribute to scientific research into this species by setting up the Woodcock Network which works closely with the GWCT.

He has personally caught and ringed more than 2,500 woodcock to enable crucial research into the vulnerable species which has inspired him to create beautiful and well-observed paintings and bronzes of the enigmatic bird from his home near Aberystwyth.

Owen Williams at work in his studio.

The Woodcock Network was established to encourage more ringing, counts and field observation of woodcock in the UK to assist in the research of this fascinating species.

Owen’s talk at the GWCT Welsh Game Fair will focus on the Llŷn Woodcock Project, a new venture organised by the Game and Wildlife Trust’s local project officer Lee Oliver, where scientists will be working with five shooting estates to monitor how woodcock use their land.

Woodcock will be ringed and some will have tags fitted. Feathers will also be collected to discover where the birds come from – there are native UK and migratory populations.

“We are going to be talking about ways of hunting woodcock more sustainably,” said Owen. “One of these ways is to conduct thermal surveys of land before shooting days so that we can monitor how many birds there are on the ground and set daily bags to ensure a sustainable harvest.

“We think this is the way forward for shooting sustainably and North Wales will become a centre of best practice.

“We have a UK breeding population of woodcock and also a migrant population and they mix. The UK breeding population is declining but we think, looking at the data and science, that it’s probably linked to climate change, poor management of forestry and predation rather than shooting.

“The good news is that the decline is beginning to level off, whilst the migrant population is robust and in good shape. Woodcock hardly ever breed in Wales, so the risk of shooting a breeding bird here in Wales is very small.”

There will be a series of debates in the theatre over the event’s three days, with key speakers involved in conservation, shooting, farming, landscape management and food. Full details at https://www.welshgamefair.org/gwct-nick-williams-theatre .

It promises to be a busy event for Owen who will also be exhibiting some of his work with wildlife art consortium Redspot Artists. The Redspot gallery is just one of a large number of attractions and exhibitors at the event, which is packed with things for families to see and do.

“As a Welshman, I’m delighted that our first post-Covid Redspot show will be at the GWCT Welsh Game Fair in its inaugural year where we will be exhibiting an impressive range of wildlife art,” added Owen.