Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Stonechats Again....Yes Stonechats.

Throughout last year I've been sent several records of Stonechat (St) in and out of our area and it goes without saying how much I appreciate this. These records together with some more recent birds seen add up to something like twenty locations and a rough estimate of 26 birds seen in 2012 being a mere fraction of birds that could have been seen just 4 years ago 

I just wanted to make note of a record kindly forwarded to me second hand a couple of years ago, of St in mid-winter which had been reported as heard only. So as to avoid sounding like some authority on the St, I have to say these records have me scratching my head.

There are two aspects about the St voice which should be noted, in the first place they are far less vocal at times outside the breeding season, and are rarely - if ever - heard during the winter. Having started to sing at the start of the breeding season the male might continue to do so throughout the breeding cycle, he is the only one to sing, the female has no song. The male can be heard in song from around late February and the peak period is March and April, after which it virtually ceases until early July after which it generally ceases altogether.

At the risk of repeating myself you will no doubt have heard me say what a complex species the  St is, and here is one example of the complexity of this bird. At the beginning of the breeding season the song of most species is usually associated with attracting a mate, but with the St many males don't start to sing - if they sing at all - until after they are already paired. From personal records, despite my interest in the St for 'a few years' I only ever heard the song on two occasions, both of which were of the male in song flight, this is an elaborate display which has him holding his body at an angle with trailing legs and toes pointed backwards, tail fanned and depressed, the white neck patches, rump, and wings are all prominently displayed. He may periodically hover, and sometimes rises and falls as if on elastic....a truly spectacular display by this delightful favourite of mine, but not at all an easy sight to come across and witness I assure you. 

And finally....I never heard a St singing or calling in winter, and to be honest....never expect to.

Perhaps I should spare you all from any more Stonechat pics, well this time....


Instead a couple of in flight record shots of the Smew found on the Lune Estuary at Glasson Dock last Friday 1 February. With my thanks to the reliable contact who alerted me to this little beauty.


These images give some useful upper and underwing in flight detail and are both 'Copy Permitted' with my thanks.    

1 comment:

Warren Baker said...

Learned a lot from that post pete :-)