Thursday, 3 December 2015


Stonechat. Marc Heath.

I've just had the pleasure of reading John Callion's excellent and interesting 'Observations of Breeding European Stonechats in Cumbria' in the November issue of British Birds. 

The long term study in western Cumbria spans 25 years to the present day, mainly using nest recording and colour ringing of nestlings, being two aspects of which my own studies of the Stonechat in many upland areas of Bowland and some beyond over 15 years didn't touch upon, making my project more one of monitoring than actually studying as comprehensively as this one which made some interesting discoveries about this special and complex species.

John Callion comes to the close of his article with some aspects of the Stonechats migration strategy which I myself have touched on in some of the articles on Birds2blog, in that our populations of Stonechat have evolved to become partially migratory, and points out the differences of strategy in this regard, some resident, some short distance, some long distance migrants, but with speculation that climate change and mild winters might have our British Stonechat become wholly resident. However, the harsh winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 had a catastrophic effect on the wintering population, and there now seems to be the suggestion that even when hard winters are few and far between, our Stonechats are set to remain as partial migrants. 

Stonechats in 2015.

In addition to my own observations, the records for the year are collected either off the internet or by correspondents sending them in to me.


I collected 26 records of wintering Stonechat to the end of February, one I found myself on Jeremy Lane 27 January, I saw this bird again on 10 and 12 February.


With some duplicate records to take into account, 2 birds at Langden Castle, a pair on the path to the Eric Morecambe hide at Leighton Moss, a pair at Heyhouse Lane Blackpool, and 4 females at Lytham Moss. 


I recieved 23 records this month involving up to 74 birds, including the best ever migrant sightings I personally ever had, a total of 13 Stonechats seen on 10 March....5 Jeremy Lane, 5 Abbey Farm, 3 Cockersands.


Records from 13 locations. I found just 2 birds this month, both females at Harrisend and Hawthornthwaite where 2 male and a female on 23 April were reported to me.


Despite five visits to Barbondale in 2015 I found just one male on 7 May and not subsequently seen.


11. White Greet. 6 birds including young.
11. Harrisend. pair and 5 young.
15. Clougha, 4 birds, pair/2 young.
19. Whitbarrow, 9 birds.
23. Harrisend, 6 birds, 2 pair/2 young.
23. H'thwaite Fell (West) pair.
23. H'thwaite Fell (East) male and young. 
23. Whitendale, pair with young.
23. Marshall, pair with young.
23. Bloe Greet, pair with young.
28. Catshaw, pair/3 young.
28. Marshaw, pair/4 young.


10. Dunsop Valley, 10 birds, male/4 young, pair/3 young.


4. Harrisend, 8 birds, pair/2 young, pair/2 young.
4. H'thwaite Fell (West) pair/1 young.
8. Clougha, pair.


4. H'thwaite Fell (West) pair.
5. Dalton Crags, pair.
22. Wrampool, 2 birds.

According to my records, just one pair bred on Clougha this year. On Hawthornthwaite Fell two pair bred, Harrisend also had two pair breeding here this year. But a big disappointment that the Stonechat has still not returned - save the one pair - to the former stronghold of Clougha four years after the harsh winters of 2009/10/11. 

Thanks to Marc Heath for the Stonechat image, much appreciated.


Warren Baker said...

Nice bit of work there pete, collating all your stonechat info, interesting stuff :-)

Bob Bushell said...

Beautiful Stonechat image Pete. What a place to be for listing items.