Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Blackcap versus Redstart confusion!

Yes I am always willing to learn!   Another experience from the late afternoon of (May 23rd 2013)

Only the other day (May 23rd) whilst traversing through the beautiful Lancelot Clark Storth, pounding downhill from the opposite direction was a party of country goers who turned out to be from the Grange (Over Sands) Natural History Society.

I got chatting, with the Cumbria Wildlife leader of the party who I know well, and explaining that today I was on the lookout for “Redstarts and Flycatchers”. 

Overhearing this, one of the guys from this party said “I have just heard one (Redstart) calling from just higher up close to the Spring”, which is probably about 50-75 yards further on in a Easterly direction.   He continued to say that he had at first thought he had heard a Blackcap, but quickly changed his opinion and came to realise it was the Redstart. So I asked him then did it make the “hou-whit” contact call.

I suppose thinking about it I had actually heard the full Redstart song call hundreds of times, but this was in the long distance past, and yes the song at that time had become familiar (during the 80s and 90s).   But three decades on and absent of seeing or hearing any Redstarts in recent times, had some how managed to replace in my mind “The full song” with the “houwhit” contact call. 

He quickly answered me by saying no! what he had heard was the full Redstart song which more or less started off very similar to the Blackcap call but after a few Blackcap/warbly notes finished off abruptly with a sort of “swit”. And this was called for a period of a few seconds duration and then at times regularly repeated.

It came to mind, that only minutes prior to this I had actually heard what I took to be a singing Blackcap coming from the area where he would have heard his Redstart. I nearly replied to him saying that I also had heard a bird calling from there but sure it was a Blackcap.  Then I thought better of it.

This experience had now left me rather undecided and so, when I arrived back home I went to the “xeno canto” bird sounds website on the Internet and was able to check out multiple variant calls of the Redstart, and guess what?  The guy was right it was a Redstart.

I suppose the moral to this story is that you are never to old to learn even if it means learning some of the forgotten stuff as well.