Tim Melling – Hoopoe

Tim writes: in early October a Hoopoe turned up not far from where I live in West Yorkshire so I decided to go to see it.  When I arrived there was nobody else around and I stopped the car as it walked down the road in front of me.  I took several photographs of it walking on driveways but it soon decamped to a nearby cricket pitch where it stayed for 2 weeks.  It was dull weather when I first visited so I returned in sunny weather for some photos on grass.  This time it was a totally different experience with more than a hundred photographers lying in a circle around the bird that fed unconcernedly.  I had in my mind that I wanted photographs of it with its crest raised, wing-stretching, and playing catch with a grub.  As luck would have it I managed all three.

Hoopoes are scarce visitors to Britain, usually with about a hundred and twenty-five records a year.  In spring there is a southerly bias to records but in autumn there are relatively more records along the east coast and in the Northern Isles.  This suggests that autumn birds have a more easterly origin as they breed as far east as Lake Baikal.  European breeders winter in Africa, and Hoopoes have nested in England on about 30 occasions, but not elsewhere in Britain.  Also interestingly, the number of records in Britain has remained stable for the past sixty years whereas records of most scarce birds have increased in line with the increasing popularity of birdwatching.  This is probably because few are missed as they will be reported even by non-birders.