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Stonechat at Harthope

Yipee! Since the UK Government’s easing of the ‘once-a-day exercise’ guidance I took the opportunity to make a visit to our sister valley: Harthope Valley. And, like the Breamish Valley, it currently looks stunning with the drifting mounds of yellow gorse:

Flowering gorse at Harthope Valley

Walking along the course of the Caery Burn, there was no one in sight, other than one other man out walking his dog. Following the ‘new normal’, we passed each other easily at the minimum 2 meter social-distancing recommendation (why didn’t they call it ‘physical distancing’ or just ‘keep your distance’? He was quite social – smiled, said ‘hello’ and even commented about the weather. That was nice.). Shortly after, there was something that sounded as if a couple of stones were being tapped together. Someone else around the bend? Better be alert! But no, there, flicking its wings at the top of a gorse bush, was a stonechat.

stonechat at Harthope Valley
Stonechat at Harthope Valley

The stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) belongs, of course, to the bird family of chats – just like our favourite robin:

robin - chat
Robin: member of the chat family

In fact, the stonechat is about the size of a robin and also has an orange-red breast. The breast colouring is more pronounced in the male, with the female showing just an orange tinge. The males also have a distinctive black head, whereas the female’s is brown. Both have a brown back and white at the sides of the neck. So, what do you reckon? Is this one a male or a female?

female stonechat on gorse at Harthope Valley
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

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