Birdwatchers cock-a-hoopoe over rare sighting at Beddington

Bird watchers and naturalists lit up social media at the weekend after a sighting of a hoopoe at a reserve in south London.

Peter Alfrey captured this photograph of a hoopoe in flight at Beddington on Sunday

It was the first confirmed sighting for 50 years at Beddington Farmlands nature reserve of the bird, an exotic visitor from Africa.

Local conservationist, and occasional Inside Croydon contributor, Peter Alfrey made the sighting on Sunday, with photographic evidence of the extravagantly plumaged bird with its distinctive feathered crest flying across a field north of the BedZed development.

The report of the sighting generated thousands of tweets (well, it would…), as the visit of the migratory bird coincided with similar observations of other hoopoes at four other places across southern England.

Hoopoes, which look similar to a woodpecker and are about the size of a small pigeon, are widespread in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. Most European and north Asian birds migrate to the tropics in winter, and it is suggested that the Beddington bird may have been returning from its winter home and carried further north by strong winds.

Might the hoopoe find enough to eat, and a mate, to stick around at Beddington through the summer?

Hoopoes have been known to breed in southern England during warm, dry summers that provide plenty of grasshoppers and similar insects.

Despite a turn-out of keen bird-watchers eager for a sight of the rare bird, there was no sign of Alfrey’s hoopoe on Monday, though. He may have hoopoed off somewhere else.

Alfrey told Inside Croydon that on Sunday, “… there were six reported in the UK, with two at Portland (Dorset), one at Yate (Gloucestershire), one at Bridport (Dorset), one at Sherpa Marsh (Devon) and the Beddington bird.

“Last weekend there were seven, including one in north London that was seen at Brent Reservoir and also Walthamstow Reservoir. The first one in the country this year was a month ago but it looks like most of them came in last weekend.

“Hoopoes this time of year are called overshoot migrants – they’ve basically travelled too far north or west, generally due to a favourable tailwind that takes them further than they might have planned. Sometimes they hang around a bit and move between sites – it’s likely the north London bird from last weekend was the same individual as the Beddington bird. But there was also a hoopoe in Kent, too, so it could be that bird.

“These overshoots will probably re-orientate to their core range but it has been known that some overshoots find the place to their liking and some even pair up and breed.”


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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