Monday, September 08, 2014

The Wryneck.

I suppose all birders have a favourite. It might be one of the glamorous species, like a Bee-eater or it could be impressive and exciting like an Eagle, but for me only one species ticks all the boxes.

Its the Wryneck.

'But its just grey and brown' you might say, but whilst it does have a subtle beauty in its intricately marked plumage, its not just this that attracts me to them. No, its much more than that.

To see or better still, to find your own Wryneck is a pulse pausing moment for any birder.  These exotic, weirdly behaving, ground dwelling woodpeckers come from birding folklore. From a time when there were many more individual birds around in the countryside than there are today, a time before the industrial revolution when insects and old woodland, scrub and hedgerows covered the land.

Looking at old books and reports, any one watching birds from times past up until the 40s or 50s maybe could just about expect to come across a Wryneck or two on the coast during a walk out in August and September. For those living in the south east of England, the breeding song of the Wryneck rang out from old stunted and gnarled orchards, while Red backed Shrikes haunted the dog rose, and cuckoos, turtle doves and corncrakes were just typical farmland birds.

This morning I popped down to Hadston to pay my respects to such a character. As the sun peeked out and began to warm the scrub near the boat compound, the Wryneck crept around in a reptilian manner on some old timber and discarded tree stumps, hunting for insects. It was a little flighty at first but soon settled down in front of a handful of admirers to feed and sun bathe in the open.

Time flies when you watch a Wryneck with the warmth of a low sun on you and a breeze through the grass. Your mind can drift to imagining what it would have been like in the old days when this would have been an everyday sighting...

That is why the Wryneck is not just something to 'hit and run' for a year tick, its something to savour and enjoy. Something to think on, to dwell in our thoughts.  It is part of our birding heritage and long may its presence continue to grace our shores...

So, here it is, the Wryneck, Jynx torquilla, for me, there is no finer bird...



8 comments:

Steve Gale said...

I totally agree Stewart. My first one (Minsmere September 1976) was a joyous moment, one that I'd fantasised about since I'd begun birding just two years before.

Johnnykinson said...

Cracking words and images for a brilliant bird. The Wryneck and Hoopoe, i remember, captured my imagination when i first picked up my first birding book (not that long ago relatively speaking)I had to wait until recently to see my first Wryneck, at Whitley Crem, and wasn't disappointed. I spent a few hours there. The Hoopoe still eludes me.
Excellent post Stewart.

Warren Baker said...

Still not seen a Wryneck Stewart. I suppose I could chase one down that somebody else has reported - but I want to find my own ........preferably on my patch!!

Cracking photo's by the way !!

Stewart said...

Steve - It is a bird that I struggled to see. In the 80s they were quite sparse even on passage up here, but in the 90s numbers started to improve, probably weather related.

Johnny - See above. Hoopoe is a good one. I've seen 4 or 5 in the county, including one that lived at Boulmer for about 6 weeks! I once bumped into it while out with the dog in the rain, and it was about 15 feet away, feeding.

Warren - I am surprised. The south east seems to get a lot. I've self found a few on my own local patches over the years. Superb birds, as I've said...Hope this is your year.

Stringer said...

Well said.

That lens is working out ok then !

amanda peters said...

Stunning photos and bird, so jealous.. would love to see this bird..
Amanda xx

Stewart said...

Gary -Yes, am loving it! I'm starting to get the hang of it now...

Amanda - Cheers.

Ragged Robin said...

Great post Stewart and a wonderful sighting :) Its one of those birds, along with Shrike, that I would really love to see. Memories I think of images I used to see in the Observer's Book of Birds when I was young :)