Country Corner

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Mention Yellow Wagtails and many country folk will say they have seen one at some time or other.

Usually what they have seen is the Grey Wagtail, which has blindingly yellow under parts.

However, the Grey Wagtail is a fairly common riverside bird, unlike this, the Yellow Wagtail, which is a very scarce breeder locally.

Generally Yellow Wagtails are birds of wet pastures in England. Only a few of their most northerly individuals breed in southern Scotland, including this one and his slightly less yellow mate.

On one of the estates I work on, one or two pairs breed every Summer. In winter they are in Gambia and the Sahel regions of Africa. Somewhere between these two geographical extremes, one of the males I watch has been netted and ringed.

Most likely he was caught at a reedbed roost where Yellow Wagtails can gather in great numbers after breeding. Some such communal roosts, mostly in southern England, are the scene of much ringing effort.

Of course his ring will only be read if he is netted again, most probably at the same roost, or if he is found dead.

In truth, only a tiny fraction of the metal rings fitted to the legs of small birds are ever recovered.

In the meantime, he has the distinction of wearing a bit of ‘bling’, though whether it helps in impressing the females I have no idea.

Yellow Wagtails like a mosaic of tall and short grasses to provide a mixture of insect species and feeding opportunities. This can be recreated by providing grazed and ungrazed areas or cut and uncut patches.

My client attemps to provide these optimal conditions and will hopefully be repaid by the appearance of Yellow Wagtail fledglings soon.