Friday, 28 September 2012

All awry

At last a reasonable night and morning.I actually put out my moth traps last night, and although I caught few moths, and nothing new for the year, they did at least survive the night without getting drowned in a deluge. I decided on a walk round the Paddock, down to the farm and then up to the Monument. There were still lots of Chiffchaffs in the Paddock and a few Blackcaps around, but nothing the get the pulse rate up. While on the subject of the Paddock, why on earth are the National Trust using hideous white plastic fencing to form the area for corralling the ponies? It looks out of place, they keep falling over and really should be replaced by wood ASAP! Along the droveway I got brief views and loud confirmation of the presence of a Ring Ousel. A short while after one flew up the road and over my head. Both views were unsatisfactory but I got the impression that the first was a male and the second view was of a female. The wood was quiet and I made my way up to the cliffs where Jack and Richard were on vis-mig duty. There were loads of Swallows and House Martins but very few Sand Martins. Parties of Siskins and larger flocks of Goldfinches made up most of the birds overhead, with good numbers of Alba (Pied/White) Wagtails and a few Reed Buntings. I missed the Tree Pipits that head bee recorded earlier. We walked down to hope point and up to the Kingsdown Lees. As we returned down the path, one of my favourite birds flew of the path and perched in a bush in the scrub between Hope Point and Hope Bay Studio.

You can just about see it in the middle of the bush. I decided to try and get close enough for a better picture and needed to move more to my left to try and improve the light.As usual it's a matter of walking a few yards, and couple of pictures, a few more yards, more pictures etc. In the old days this wasted a lot of slides as the only ones you really want anre the lst ones when you are at your closest.

The Wryneck seemed quite settled, but it did twist its head in the characteristic way that gives them their name, showing the bold black mark down the nape and back.

 Even when you get quite close to a Wryneck there is little about it to suggest that it is a member of the Woodpecker family. They are difficult to age but the juveniles do show a less well marked black area from the hind-neck to the mantle. My impression was that this one may have been an adult.

The vermiculations on the flanks and tail coverts add to the attractive cryptic nature of the plumage.Unlike to true woodpeckers the tail is rather long and soft, whereas the others have a short still tail that helps in the clambering up tree trunks.

 The small pointed bill is ideal for feeding on ants on the ground, but would be no use for excavating a hole in a tree. They in fact nest in a variety of existing holes, including old woodpecker holes or even Kingfisher or Sand martin holes. They have also been known to use holes in buildings, water pumps and nest boxes.

 The species is widespread, breeding in temperate zones from Western Europe across Asia to Japan, with a population in North Africa.. They were once widespread in England, being particularly common in the old trees in orchards. The last that I know of breeding, or at least present and calling in the breeding season, were on Dartford Heath in 1973. The reasons for their decline and eventual disappearance in England is complex. They have generally withdrawn from the north of their range and this may be due to climatic change. Then the disappearance of their best breeding habitats and also of suitable grassland for feeding on their favourite food, ants may be a large contributor.

 Although now lost as a breeding bird in England, a few pairs have nested in Scotland since 1969. These are though to have come from the Scandinavian breeding population. It has never really became established in the Highlands, with a mean of about 5 singing males per year.

 A final view before it settled on the other side, only just visible through the bush. I didn't get the chance to go back later, but in a previous year, one in the same area continually returned to the bit of the path to feed. Presumably the short grass provided an ideal feeding habitat.

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