Whinchats......not what I had hoped for!

June 20, 2013  •  1 Comment

This year I returned to Dartmoor in May awaiting the arrival of Whinchats as this year I wanted to get some nice close-ups with the adults bringing in food for the chicks.

On two visits in May I had found five pairs all holding territories and knew it was only a matter of time before before eggs would be laid and chicks needing to be fed would follow. Photographing these birds at this point last year proved quite successful and the birds would come very close as they carried caterpillars and grubs back for their young.

My next visit was still a little early but there's always so much to see there it didnt matter and I wanted to get the timing right so as not to miss the best time, also a few friends wanted to photograph these little birds so I was keen to see how things had progressed.  On each of these visits one pair seemed to be staying very close to a hawthorn tree so this was the easiest pair to locate each time. Early to mid June was always going to be the optimum time but unfortunately due to personal circumstances I was unable to get back there for a few weeks.

On Wednesday a made the hour journey and the 15 minute walk down over the hill, the pair of Whinchats that had been close to the Hawthorn tree were still there and I sat back some distance and watched. The male arrived with a caterpillar and sat on the heather some distance away and the female sat on top of the Hawthorn tree. After watching for some time it was obvious the birds were not going down to the nest (which had to be close-by) I moved farther back but this made no difference and the male ate the caterpillar that it had been holding in its beak, this actually happened a couple more times.

After about half an hour or so two guy's came over to where I was sat, after a brief chat they informed me that they were ringing chicks and the Whinchat nest was only 5m away from the Hawthorn tree. We went over and looked at the nest which was incredibly hard to see and all the chicks in their opinion were too old to ring and if the nest was disturbed there would be a very strong chance they would disperse straight away. After settling back in position with my camera the two guys explained to me that the reason the male would not take the food to them was that they were being encouraged to leave the nest, which is why the female was just sitting in the tree calling and in their opinion the chicks would fledge that day. Safe with knowledge that I was not too close I just waited and waited. After 5 hours had passed I walked up the hill to get some water from my van and meet Rob who was coming down after work.

Within the hour I had returned and found that all the chicks had left the nest!  Even though i'm sure they hadn't gone far it was not going to be as easy to position myself where the adult birds were likely to perch with 5 or 6 chicks all in different places.

I took a couple of shots from distance and a few of the male in the hawthorn tree but it seems I will have to wait another year!


Comments

Ian White(non-registered)
What a bummer mate but you still nailed this beauty.....you had the light and we had the birds shame it all didn't happen on the same day.
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