Welcome back to the woodland wonders

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Two woodland birds are arriving back in the region from Africa – the redstart and the pied flycatcher.

Both are found mainly in the mature oak woods in the western half of Britain, although they also nest in Yorkshire where there is a mixture of mature trees and glades.

The male redstart is among the most beautiful of our summer migrants, with his red breast, bold black mask edged with white at the top, smart grey upper parts and the long bright orange-red tail which gives this bird its name.

Redstart is derived from the Old English ‘steort’, meaning red tail.

The female also has a bright red tail but otherwise is a plainer red-brown above and buffish beneath.

They build nests in walls, buildings, mossy tree stumps or holes in the ground and the female is left to carry out the majority of the nesting duties.

There are some 100,000 pairs of redstarts breeding in Britain each summer; in Yorkshire, the best-known places to look out for them include Strid Wood, at Bolton Abbey, along with many other woodlands in Upper Wharfedale, Hardcastle Crags, near Hebden Bridge, and the woodland valleys west of Sheffield.

In the east of the county, they thrive in the woods at the southern edge of the North York Moors, while there is a recently discovered small but stable population in woodland on the Yorkshire Wolds.

The pied flycatcher is at home in the same type of mature woodland as the redstart, and arrives back from Africa at about the same time.

A male was back in Strid Woods this week. He is a smart black and white at this time of year, black above, gleaming white below and with a white wingbar ,while the female is brown where the male is black. After breeding, the male turns brown.

Pied flycatchers have greatly benefited from nest boxes put up for them over the last 40 years, with the population in some areas doubling as a result.

Some of these boxes can be seen along the footpaths in Strid Woods with the males displaying in front of them to entice a female inside, while many others have been put up in woods in Upper Wharfedale and elsewhere in Yorkshire.

The latest wave of summer migrants has included many more whitethroats, the first lesser whitethroats and spotted flycatchers, sedge and reed warblers and cuckoos.

Yellow wagtails have been reported in a number of places, while blue-headed wagtails, one of the Continental races of this bird, were seen at Spurn and Sammy’s Point.

Grasshopper warblers have been reeling their song, with seven on the Blacktoft Sands reserve, while a Savi’s warbler was near the car park at Sammy’s Point on Sunday.

Three shorelarks were seen next to a footpath between the Bempton Cliffs reserve and Flamborough village this week, while further north, a dotterel was seen at Ravenscar.

More common terns were back at inland breeding sites, while Arctic and black terns were being seen on passage.

A Slavonian grebe remained at Blacktoft Sands where there were also 12 spotted redshanks, 10 marsh harriers and 94 avocets.

There were still some reminders of winter with rough-legged buzzards continuing to be seen in Sleddale, on the North York Moors, and on the moors above the Strines, in South Yorkshire.

Waxwing flocks were reported in Leeds, Harrogate and Sheffield.

tealebill48@yahoo.co.uk