You’ve heard of a needle in a haystack? Well, that’s kind of what it was like trying to see this incredibly well-camouflaged little bird, my 198th species for the year and a lifer for me, a Wryneck.
These first two uncropped photos were taken with my 300mm lens – can you spot the bird?
It’s a little easier to see when it had popped up on to a clod of earth, instead of disappearing in to the furrows in search of its favourite food, ants.
One of the things that helped me spot the bird was the reaction of the House sparrows that were also feeding in the field at the time. They were clearly aware that this Wryneck was something different, something odd, something to be looked at and investigated. The sparrows also provide a good size comparison – as you can see, the Wryneck is a small bird.
The Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) is a member of the woodpecker family, hence its liking for ants, but it prefers spending its time on the ground rather than in trees, like most other woodpeckers.
The name Wryneck comes from the bird’s ability to swivel its head around 180° – a bit creepy but probably very handy for the bird. This is yet another bird that has declined in numbers in recent years. It once used to nest in Britain but these days it just passes through in Spring and Autumn on its way to pastures greener (or, perhaps, that should be pastures ant-ier).