A Hoopoe at Stoke

Saturday, November 12, 1988

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(An extract from my old birdwatching diary “Crippling Views”)

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This time it’s a quick half day trip to Parkhall Country Park near Stoke. Look for the orange arrows:

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In this unlikely industrial landscape,  there is an extremely late Hoopoe. What a fabulous bird:

hoopoe02 xxxxx

It’s a bird that I’ve seen before, but only as a flushed silhouette that flitted across the path and disappeared forever. A distinctive enough shape to be a tick, but not much more than that:

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Alan isn’t with us, and I’m too scared of his wife to ring him. Steve isn’t there either. Paul says that he’s ill and doesn’t want to come, but in actual fact he hasn’t told him we’re going, in case he gets a tick as well.

We are the first to arrive in Stoke and we have a quick look round the incredible maze of paths and disused quarries:

mossy view zzzzzzz

We draw a blank. Luckily we find a local and he tells us that we are at the wrong end of the park and that we should drive round to the other side:

view

This we do, and find a good few people scouring the countryside. A half mile walk takes us along the side of an old quarry, and down to a little grassy valley where the Hoopoe habitually feeds, probing the short turf for insects and grubs:

general view

Sure enough it’s there, a fairly dull, pinky chestnut coloured bird, with an improbably long bill and crest, and a bewildering series of black and white stripes on various bits of its anatomy. It looks like a bird that has been doodled by a very bored person in an exceptionally boring meeting:

hoopoe

The watchers themselves are extremely well-behaved and I lose a bet with myself that somebody with a really, really poor camera is bound to want an amazingly close close-up shot, but I am wrong. Everybody conducts themselves properly and they just watch the Hoopoe as it feeds in the short grass and then they all return home.

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10 Comments

Filed under Science, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature

10 responses to “A Hoopoe at Stoke

  1. I’ve never seen this bird before; both beautiful and unusual!

  2. The Hoopoe is a wonderful bird. I had never seen one of those before! Nice pictures.

  3. I saw a lot of them on a golf course in Spain. They were doing terrible damage foraging for grubs!

    • Yes, they like nothing better than probing into dry turf for insect larvae, a bit like choughs do over here. In Nottingham, badgers will have a go as well, but they like to roll the turf back like a carpet.

  4. Wow. I didn’t know we had birds as exotic looking as that. Is it the ‘oddest’ we have in the UK?

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