Monday, 4 May 2009


There are/have been two birds in the South of England in the past few days which have created some interest to me other than the 'twitchable' aspect of them, not least of all because one of the birds was found at Dungeness in Kent which is in the area famed for the so called Hastings Rarities Affair, which at the time was a scandal that damaged the credibility of the British List. The bird in question is a Crested Lark which drew 'twitcher's' from far and wide and I know of at least one 'local' who made the journey to see this bird which represents the 21st record of the species found in the UK.

The Crested Larks distribution ranges from Continental Europe south from the Baltic, South Asia, Northwest and upland Equatorial Africa. The earliest record of the species to be found in the UK was obtained in Littlehampton in West Sussex around 1845 and was in the collection of a compulsive egg collector and specimen hunter of the time....deplorable people I may add. It is difficult to believe in the 21st century that so called birdwatchers in those days were still trapping larks and pipits for puddings and pies, whilst finches were being sold into the bird cage trade. Thank goodness we have become more civilised today in our attitude towards wildlife and in our case the birds, well at least in part though there is still much to be done in the uphill struggle to achieve total protection for them.

The second rarity which is/was in the UK is the Collared Flycatcher and this bird creates a little more interest for me than the Crested Lark in that - as opposed to that species - this bird is actually mentioned by name in the Hastings Rarities affair and forms part of the scandal which stretches the imagination a little too far as some of the species in the list include multiple records of the same species, an example of which is no less than five Collared Flycatchers.

The distribution of this flycatcher is Central and southeast Europe, and west Russia, and winters in Africa. The first acceptable record following the dismissal of the Hastings birds was only a matter of 62 years ago in 1947 at Whalsay, Shetland, and by something of a coincidence the current bird found in Southwell, Portland in Dorset is being claimed as the 22nd record in the UK which is just one more than the Crested Lark records. Only one female has ever been found, just 33 years ago on the Out Skerries, Shetland, on 25 May 1976.

I have an uncomfortable feeling the pic above has been on the blog before but this time its here for another purpose. I'm hoping the Sanderlings turn up at Cockersands sometime later this month and better still exceed the record of c.130 which just sneaked into May on the 31st in 2007 but didn't come here - as far as I know - in 2008.


Richard Shilling said...

Hi Pete, That's a really interesting post with added interest as I know Dungeness and Hastings quite well as I am from nearby.

I was treated to a wonderful display by two nuthatches yesterday at Fenham Carr and I saw a blackbird displaying to a female.

I've never seen it before but it fluffed its feathers up in certain way and did a bobbing dance. It reminded me of the Attenborough footage of birds of paradise but obviously without the colour.

What endlessly fascinating creatures they are if we just take the time to look.

All the best.


Pete Woodruff said...

Thanks for comments on the post and your enjoyment of the two Nuthatch and Blackbird displays.

Spot on with your 'fascinating creatures' too. I should have taken an interest in birds many years before I actually did but my passion still grows.

Thanks again Rich.