Stonechat. Simon Hawtin
I was to say the least pretty excited to finally find Stonechat last Thursday at an upland location in the Forest of Bowland. I've used the word 'finally' because I had surveyed seven sites in the FOB and beyond only to find the species had disappeared due to two consecutive harsh winter periods not least the last one which was the final straw for the Stonechat, winter records had become a thing of the past and it was looking like summer ones were too. However, the six found on Bloe Greet two days ago - along with seven Whinchat - wasn't just a good result for me and the record book but a brilliant one.
But this isn't the only 'good news' story about the Stonechat....Following a couple of weeks of being in touch with a contact in the South of England I have been privileged with some very interesting records clearly illustrating the North/South divide and giving me the bigger picture regarding the present status of this bird in the UK thanks to my man in Devon who has amassed not only some brilliant records of the Stonechat, but also of the birds breeding successes so far in 2011.
With an update imminent on four more nests and their young, the grand totals in a study area are of 28 pairs of Stonechat, with 121 eggs laid, from which 87 birds fledged with one nest of five chicks having been predated soon after being ringed, and another with five eggs deserted. The female from one nest was trapped and found to have been ringed as pulli last year on 18 July within 1km, a male also trapped at another nest had also been ringed within 1km on 22 July 2010.
Other data received from this truly obliging man....The first egg this year was found on 4 April, and most pairs in this study area were ringed between 25 April - 2 May. The area was regularly checked during the last winter period and NO Stonechats were found within it, the conclusion of which is that the population in this study area are migrant breeders from their wintering grounds in Southern Europe and the coastal countries of North Africa. As I see it these migrant populations will now have the ascendancy over the sedentary population until they regain the advantage again which usually takes 3-4 years.
Stonechat. Simon Hawtin
To SH who I've not seen in a year or so, if you're reading this Simon thanks for these two excellent photographs of the adult and 1st winter male Stonechats my most favourite passerine....I'll be in touch Simon.