The scientific name for the Whinchat is Saxicola rubetra which, apparently, means ‘small rock-dweller’, a reference to where this delightful little bird likes to make its home: saxicola is from the Latin saxum, meaning ‘rock’, and incola, meaning ‘dwelling’, and, also Latin, rubetra means ‘a small bird’.
In Welsh, the Whinchat is Crec yr eithin or sometimes Clep yr eithin, eithin being the Welsh word for gorse (also known as furze or whin), where the bird is often seen perching; and crec and clep both meaning clap, a reference to the bird’s call.
Here in south Wales, the Whinchat is a passage migrant, meaning I only get the chance to see it locally in autumn – it passes through in spring as well, of course, but, as it’s then in a hurry to reach its breeding grounds, it usually just flies straight over. Both the gorgeous little Whinchats in my photos stopped over at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park last week, feeding up before they set out on their long migration flight south, crossing the English Channel, western Europe, the Med, North Africa, and finally the Sahara Desert before arriving at their wintering grounds in central and southern Africa.
According to the RSPB website, Whinchat numbers in Britain declined more than 50% between 1995 and 2008, though the reason for that decline is not known. I imagine the hazards of their long migratory flight might well have something to do with it. Safe journey, little Whinchats!
I love this photo with the Greenfinch – just shows how small the Whinchat really is.