Middlesbrough Herald & Post

Great time to spot visitors


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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