October 4th- hoopoe and hawfinches

I took my eight year old son Ptolemy to see a hoopoe on Sunday. I can remember pondering hoopoes, rollers and bee eaters in my bird books at his age, wondering if I would ever see such exotic looking species. With so many interesting birds on the east coast we could have been drawn in that direction, but I tried to see the choice through the eyes of an eight year old. The hoopoe won.

So we set off for Collingham near Leeds. The predictable gathering of birders gave the location away immediately. Camouflaged lenses twice the length of my telescope looked incongruous a few feet away from the star bird. But there was loads of room to distance comfortably from fellow birders and the views were spectacular. It was great to watch the bird feeding, wader like, as it probed the soft cricket pitch for what I think were leather jackets.

It often stabbed at the prey a few times with the end of its long beak before tossing it up and swallowing it. It did not stop feeding in the time we were there. I hope this means it will gain weight to reorient itself to join others of its kind in their wintering quarters.

Tolly loved the afternoon and despite the chill I had to persuade him to leave. It was good to see members of the non birding public showing keen interest. In these circumstances I would usually offer people views through the scope but of course this was not possible at this time. We left glowing from our hour and a half with the hoopoe and I could tell it was an afternoon Tolly would never forget.

Back in Gilling East today and continuing the lockdown project there was much to see. I work with the windows open ready to be alerted by interesting calls and there was plenty to delight. A skein of 22 pink- footed geese went east at about 10am, their calls easily audible against the roar of two USAF F-15 jets maneuvering high above them. A red kite was given away by the calls rooks make when mobbing a bird of prey, but best of all, sudden piercing “sip” calls revealed two hawfinches on the top of an apple tree. I had good views for a while before they flew into Gilling Woods. Hawfinches are not new to our garden. I have had them on the studio bird table a mere five feet from where I work and I hope that they might return this winter.

Hawfinch on the studio bird table
Hawfinch on the studio bird table

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