A pleasant surprise late last night when a friend sent me this photo taken by Peter Shappen.
There's a couple of interesting things about this photo. Firstly, I've never seen a Woodlark eating a worm before, perhaps the cold weather is forcing them to take whatever they can find. Secondly and more importantly, it's one of my colour ringed birds.
Very little is known about where our Woodlarks go in winter. The Migration Atlas refers to birds from the Brecks moving to the south coast (and one across to the Netherlands) but suggests that the Brecks population may be more migratory than populations further south. I've colour ringed over 400 birds and this is the first to be reported away from the Thames Basin heaths. It was photographed on the golf course at Wick, on the edge of Christchurch Harbour in Dorset and was ringed as a nestling on one of the Surrey commons near Hindhead in April 2012. It was with 8 other Woodlarks, none of which were ringed.
Cold weather movements of Woodlarks to the south coast have been known about for many years. John Walpole-Bond in A History of Sussex Birds (published in 1938) documents this; 'Should the weather now become severe, we look for the Wood-Lark along and near the littoral ..... during the first week of January, 1867, a time when the elements were inordinately cruel, ..... as many as two thousand were seen in one day'. They did not leave the area and 'consequently they suffered the more at the hands of such vandals as bird-catchers and stray gunmen ..... on January 3rd a netter caught ten dozen specimens at Eastbourne. On or about the same day, between Brighton and Rottingdean, at least a hundred and fifty clap-nets were plying their horrid trade..... one rascal had forty live birds to his (dis)credit, another perhaps rather less loathsome villain is said to have slaughtered a hundred'.
Thankfully these days are long gone. Where such large numbers of Woodlarks came from was never known and little information has accumulated since so it is nice to add one very small piece to the jigsaw.