Coming off the hill after an unsuccessful stalk yesterday, I was pleased to see a determined little stonechat doing his best to put on a show for his partner. I sat and watched him for fifteen minutes as he launched himself up into the air in a series of miniature display flights, hanging in the stillness on blurring wings to sing a scratchy little tune again and again. After each flight, he would return to his stance on the same sprig of heather to gather his thoughts and make plans for his next assault on the evening’s peace.
Stonechats are real heroes, and it takes some surprisingly rough weather to see them off the high ground. They are almost constant on the hill throughout the year, but this was the first time I have ever knowingly recognised the song and taken the chance to look into its detail. Soon these little birds will be lost in a torrent of wheatears, but for now they are filling their place in the spotlight with quiet, subtle determination.
Entertainingly, the RSPB’s sound recording of a stonechat is a carbon copy of the bird I heard – you could call it a word-for-word rendition.