VOLUNTEERS examining the behaviour of rare woodcocks in the New Forest have been awarded more than £12,000 to undertake cutting-edge research.

The New Forest Woodcock Group will use night vision equipment and radio tag transmitters to observe never-before-seen night-time mating behaviour and potentially track the movements of females with young.

The volunteers aim to increase understanding of the woodcock and explore the reasons behind its national decline.

The RSPB has given the woodcock amber status in its traffic light system of conservation importance, meaning the number of birds has moderately declined over the past 25 years.

The study’s grant was allocated by the New Forest National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF), which provides grants for projects that will help sustain the park.

Dr Manuel Hinge, the woodcock group’s research co-ordinator, said: “This woodcock breeding study will be helped enormously by the SDF grant.

“The woodcock is a very secretive bird whose brilliant camouflage makes it extremely difficult for us to watch and follow through dense woodland, especially at night.”

SDF grants are open to community groups, organisations and businesses.

For more information go to new forestnpa.gov.uk/sdfdetails.

To apply contact Andy Brennan on 01590 646676.

To support or volunteer for the New Forest Woodcock Group contact nfwg@newforestgateway.org.