Great time to spot vis­i­tors

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - HERALD & POST -

THIS is the time of year when you must take your binoc­u­lars with you on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Then you may be for­tu­nate to spot one of these colour­ful sum­mer vis­i­tors.

The bird is a male whin­chat, which was cap­tured in this mag­nif­i­cent pic­ture by Dave Pearce at Cod Beck reser­voir.

Whin­chats are closely re­lated to the stonechat, which re­mains with us all year round, and may be more fa­mil­iar to those read­ers who take coastal walks.

The whin­chat is a bit slim­mer than a stonechat and has ob­vi­ous white stripes above and below its dark cheeks with an orange-brown breast which tends to be less bright than that of a stonechat.

Whin­chats typ­i­cally breed on our moor­land edges although they can be spot­ted in coastal ar­eas when they ar­rive in spring and be­fore they de­part these shores to make the haz­ardous jour­ney to spend the win­ter in Africa.

The num­ber of vis­it­ing whin­chats to Bri­tain is grad­u­ally de­clin­ing and I must ad­mit I have seen only a cou­ple this year so far, com­pared with quite a few last year. Maybe I will have bet­ter luck at the end of next month when they be­gin to gather on the coast ready for de­par­ture.

One of the whin­chats which I spot­ted was a strik­ing male like this one which had set up a ter­ri­tory at Scal­ing Dam. He con­tin­u­ally flit­ted from the top of one gorse bush to an­other, prob­a­bly with a view to guid­ing me well away from his nest.

Whin­chats tra­di­tion­ally nest on the ground or low down in a bush and the young are fed mainly on a diet of in­sects.

While whin­chats find their own nest­ing spots, I was priv­i­leged to stand and watch a pied fly­catcher which had taken ad­van­tage of a nest­ing box erected by Good Sa­mar­i­tans at a spot on the North York­shire Moors.

Pied fly­catch­ers, which are about the same size as a whin­chat, also visit these shores from Africa. It’s won­der­ful that we can aid them raise their fam­i­lies with the help of nest­boxes, es­pe­cially as they make things a lit­tle eas­ier be­cause pied fly­catch­ers oth­er­wise nest in holes in trees.

The brown and white fe­male made reg­u­lar for­ays to the nest­box. The in­sects which she had caught were very clear to see in her beak.

The black and white male pied fly­catcher is the more at­trac­tive of the pair. He does usu­ally help to feed his young, though I did not spot the male on this oc­ca­sion.

How­ever male pied fly­catch­ers are big­a­mous and some­times have a se­cond or even third mate. So maybe he was feed­ing an­other brood some­where else in the wood.

Eric would like to hear from read­ers about what they have seen. Email him at eric.pay­lor@gmail.com

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