Worcestershire Record No. 22 April 2007 pp. 10-11


P. F. Whitehead

On 28 April 2007 I was studying invertebrate communities just below the summit of North Hill, Malvern (VC37 SO74 385m O.D). In direct insolation and high ambient temperatures of c24oC I was lying prone, not for irradiation, but to see small invertebrates at close range. I became aware of distant bird calls of a timbre similar to Crossbill Loxia spp. Then two small finches landed about 4.5m apart on an outcrop of diorite only 4m from me. By moving slowly I was able to see without doubt that they were Twite Carduelis flavirostris (L., 1758), but I was only able to see the male in any detail, observing the generally drab brown colouring, heavily streaked pale sides, very pale underbelly, and in particular, evidence of a whitish wing bar as the left wing drooped a fraction. Throughout this time the two birds maintained a dialogue of what might be termed a harsh, rather flat, chirping twitter, often of Tree Sparrow-like quality, without any of the elasticity of Linnet Carduelis cannabina L., 1758, a totally different and distinctive bird, especially in the spring.

Within seconds the birds became aware of me, and flew off northwards at height, further than the eye could see. Whilst such an observation may initially seem improbable, perusal of some 25 West Midland Bird Club reports shows that some Staffordshire moorland birds do not reach their territories until May, whilst Pennine birds may remain on the Lancashire and Cumbria coast until well into April. A number of recent papers have appeared which indicate that Twite breeding populations are actively contracting in Britain, but, like other specialised birds that now merely visit the Malvern Hills, they are virtually certain to have bred there in the past.

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