Birding The Lune Estuary The Forest Of Bowland And Beyond......................................................................MED GULLS - 2 OF 4 - CONDER POOL 23 SEPT PETE WOODRUFF

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Winter Chats And A Nice One At Heysham.

Since reading an article I've had since 2015 on observations of the Stonechat,  I've been able to add more interesting facts to my learning about this enigmatic little gem.

Juvenile Stonechat. Ana Minguez.

The Stonechat is unique among passerines, in that they generally winter in establish territories, often in pairs. There seems no obvious explanation as to why any pair bonds are maintained in winter, other than two birds rather than one, are able to defend a territory. Data has shown that the winter pair bond appears strong, and birds seldom seen more than 20m apart, seems to suggest that extra vigilance in upland winter habitats - which is open and with limited cover - is a distinct advantage.

Interesting colour-ringed sightings confirm that some adults, and some 1st winter birds, overwinter in upland areas. Records of colour-ringed chicks from upland sites show that they have wintered within 2km of their natal site, others that have moved to the coast, and some which have migrated to continental Europe. Such is the variation in the Stonechat migratory behaviour, evidence has also shown that an individual retains a pattern for life.

In a personal quest to find wintering Stonechat, I'm now seeing fewer birds than I saw during September at the five locations visited in Bowland. The flocking behaviour - my best early example being 18 Caton Moor 26 August - has ceased, the birds have dispersed, sometimes into the winter territories that I'm looking for, or to migrate to the Mediterranean.

Up to 5 Stonechat have already been seen at Cockersand through Sept/Oct, and records passed on to me or collected from Lanc's/Fylde websites during this period amount to 20 records of 39 Stonechat.

All that I need now, is for the weather to buck up, so I can get on with the business in hand.

I'm grateful to John Callion for corresponding with me, and for allowing me to make some references to his article Observations of breeding European Stonechats in Cumbria. British Birds 2015.

Heysham 'Golden Oldie'.

OK, so this record is now ancient, but this Thursday 5 November, sees 15 years since I found a nice little job at Heysham where I had decided to pay one of my occasional visits.

Grey Phalarope. Martin Lofgren.

Arriving at the power station Stage 2 outfall, I had excellent views of an adult Little Gull. At Stage 1, another adult Little Gull was accompanied by a juvenile Arctic Tern which found itself in the records book as being the latest one ever in Lancashire, where it remained at Heysham until 12 November. As I walked away from the outfall toward the south harbour wall, I saw a bird between the outfall and the old wooden jetty, for a moment I thought it was another Little Gull, but soon realised it was a 1st winter Grey Phalarope behaving in it's typical spinning habit whilst feeding....Nice.

Some brilliant autumn gold around now, as in the header, taken in Bowland in a previous life!


Simon H said...

Hi Pete
I was out for a run on 30/10/20, the Tarnbrook Fell track, there was a single Stonechat at SD599 570, just north of the track. Quite a few grouse with a group of around 40 in flight.
Cheers Simon.

Richard Pegler said...

An interesting point about Stonechat pairs wintering together, Pete. It never occurred to me until reading this that virtually all my sightings of Stonechat a few weeks ago on the Scillies were of pairs which were very much staying together.

Best wishes to you and KT - stay safe - - - Richard

Pete Woodruff said...

Simon....Thanks for the Stonechat record.

The Tarnbrook Fell track is now in my itinerary as one of the areas that should have been years ago. Your Red Grouse flight was more impressive than my recent 35 on Hawthornthwaite Fell.

Pete Woodruff said...

A bit more on B2B about the Stonechat tomorrow....If I get on with the job in hand!

Thanks Richard.