Life imitating art

The Willow Warblometer was off the scale this morning in the dunes at Ainsdale as the song of one bird after another cascaded over each other and at times made it hard to hear other calls.
At least 30 on my circuit south of the discovery centre.
Clearly a further arrival of common migrants had taken place as I wandered in at 0745 with the dunes to myself.

Four Groppers now, a Sedge Warbler, two Blackcap, two Chiffchaff, seven Whitethroat, six Wheatear and a steady, if small passage of buzzing Redpolls and one or two Siskins scrawled into the notebook as I settled into my favourite “sitting” dune.
(Oh come on – when you hit the sand before 8am on a hot day, you deserve a few naps along the trail…)
As soon as I had my back turned a typically sneaky male Ring Ouzel swept over my shoulder, all powerful flight and frosty wings, before bombing into birch scrub about 200 metres north of the LNR sheep enclosure.
It perched up briefly to flip me the finger before disappearing into cover.
As they do.
Still got one “magic eye” blur record shot before it evaporated though…

The Rouzel alone justified getting out of my pit as I headed to my next snoozing dune, I mean observation point, in the LNR sheep enclosure.
The Willow Warbler chorus was peaking at about 9am, when a female Redstart appeared in the scrub, flashed her orangey tail, then moved on.
Up to 10 Common Buzzards kettled above the dunes as the temperature started to rise, but hirundine movement was at a trickle – presumably they were high, high up in the blue.
To the south, Lapwing and Shelduck were on territory and corvids were targetting the BHG colony.
It got a bit quiet after that while I gave the scrub and open dunes a good checking.
As I headed out I bumped into a peachy male Whinchat, which seemed to be hanging out with a female Wheatear when not getting serious hassle from two local male Stonechats.

Whenever the bird settled the Stonechats chased it, and it took about 45 minutes before they left it be.
After that the Whinchat flew up into a flowering gorse and had a bit of a sing-song in between flycatching.
And that’s were the “life imitating art” thing comes in, ‘cos a few weeks ago I cleared out my mum’s attic, shredding and recycling all manner of junk from my early years.
I did however hold onto a single “Wild Birds In Britain” Brooke Bond Tea card from I don’t know when (but the picture card album is advertised as available “from your grocer” for the princely sum of 6d).

Not sure why I kept it until this morning, as I’ve never seen a Whinchat sitting up in gorse before and Mr Charles Tunnicliffe* had made the scene look so darn attractive to a young birder a very long time ago… almost SNAP!

*If anyone is still collecting the series (!), the Whinchat is No. 11 of 50… Over to Mr Cholmondley-Warner on the back of the card:

“The spritely Whinchat is a summer visitor to Britain, appearing about mid-April and leaving us again in September or early October to winter in tropical Africa. It is a haunter of heaths and rough lands, and is often seen on pastures and in railway cuttings as it hunts for beetles, wireworms, flies and other insects. The nest is placed close to the ground, in low herbage or low shrubs. It is loosely constructed of dry grass and moss and is lined with hair and fine fibres. Only the hen builds the nest while the male accompanies her”.


3 thoughts on “Life imitating art

  1. I had a walk round the Hightown dunes yesterday afternoon. It was jolly hot. I counted 3 Whitethroats, 6 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs. A Gropper started up at 3pm in a small Hawthorn near the shingle beach.
    That set off two more but I couldn’t see any of them. More visible were two Tree Pipits and a pair of Stonechats, perching up nicely, and several of the Longhorn moths, Adela reaumurella.
    There was the expected range of butterflies; Orange Tips, Peacocks, etc. Still quite a few Vernal Mining Bees and several Blood-bees Sphecodes on the bare sand patch near the eastern scrape, where there was also a Northern Dune Tiger Beetle. All too active to photograph in the heat.
    I was pleased to see a variety of small annuals doing well on the dunes.
    Finally, I spotted a Hairy Sand-wasp Podalonia hirsuta on bare ground under the burned Gorse bushes. It seemed preoccupied so I sneaked up on it and it started to excavate a burrow. Actually it transpired it was a pre-existing burrow, as it pulled out a large noctuid caterpillar and after a short while re-buried it in the same tunnel, filling in the hole by kicking sand into it. I got a sequence of photos but I realised it was an ideal subject for video.
    Unfortunately, I haven’t yet learned how to do this on my camera!
    I decided to avoid the crowds and have a stroll down Haskayne Cutting this afternoon.
    I counted at least 13 male and two female Orange Tips but they were hopelessly active as usual.


  2. Superb pictures of the Whinchat John, especially the flight pic. And the “snap” comparison had me rooting amongst my few treasures to confirm that yes, I do still have a full set of those Brook Bond cards mounted in their sixpenny album… They’re in the same place as my 1958 copy of the Observers Book of Birds.
    Still trying to figure out how that makes me feel….

    Liked by 1 person

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