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Woodland and Forest Birds here in the UK - April 2020

With declining woodland & Forest bird populations, protecting woodland habitats is more important than ever, from their lush canopies to the leaf litter below.

Starting, as it’s the time for the Willow Moon 15th April – 12th May, with the Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)

A summer visitor with a mournful song that rings through the trees.

The willow warbler likes to sing and shake its feathers while it forages for insects.

Willow warblers have a...

  • yellowish or olive green breast with paler underparts.

  • brownish head with a pale yellow-green stripe above the eye, and

  • flesh-coloured legs.

Long primary feathers on its brown wings give this bird a long-winged appearance, reflecting the huge distances it travels on migration.

Weighing about 9g, this is a dainty bird of a similar size to a blue tit.

Not to be confused with: the chiffchaff, which looks very similar but can be differentiated by its song and darker legs.

Chiffchaffs make a ‘chiff-chaff’ sound while willow warblers have a lovely warble that descends in scale.

Willow warblers are active during the day, feeding on a variety of small insects and spiders, as well as fruits and berries in the autumn.

Willow warblers build distinctive, dome-shaped nests with a hole in the side, close to the ground. Very small eggs are laid in these oven-like nests.

The smooth, glossy white eggs are speckled with reddish-brown.

Females incubate the eggs, but after hatching they are fed by both parents.


Willow warblers leave the UK between July and September to spend the winter in Africa, south of the Sahara.

Threats and conservation

The number of willow warblers in the UK has fallen by around 44% since 1970.

Populations are, however, faring better in Scotland and the north of England than in the south, possibly due to changes in the availability of favourable breeding habitat.

Next, our April Visitors…

April is one of the times of the year where migratory species return to their breeding territories to get on with the mating game.

In April, bird song is increasingly obvious as new-in migrants join the resident birds in the dawn chorus, and/or throughout the day.

These migrants, arriving in April, include the…

· Black-Winged Stilt – to be fair, the Black-Winged Stilt remains largely a rare visitor. You should look for them at freshwater or brackish sites. However they could drop in anywhere

· Dotterel – an unusual bird in as much, the females are the prettier ones and the duller males are the egg incubators. Dotterels are famous for not being afraid of us humans. As they migrate north they are seen in…

o East Anglia (My home Region)

o The Pennines &

o Pendle Hill in Lancashire.

· Redstart – mainly breed in the north and west of the UK, in a variety of rural habitats with trees. In general, Redstarts like dense bushes and trees, often along linear features such as hedges and fence lines. Male Redstarts are at their best in the spring, being bright orange, grey and black; the females are duller brown, but both sexes have quivering tails.

· Reed Bunting – has an “irritating, repetitive and simplistic song”. Very much part of the atmosphere of reed-lined wetlands. Male Reed Bunting are quite like House Sparrows, but with a neater black head and throat with a neat white moustache, collar, and outer tail feathers. Don’t just look in reed-beds, look also in the small trees nearby.

· Sedge Warbler – They’re often one of the earliest warblers to arrive in the spring (along with Chiffchaff and Blackcap).

Sedge Warblers are mainly birds of reeds and similar vegetation associated with water. I find that they are quite hard to see/locate, but they’re usually singing which gives away their presence.

I wonder how many of those 5 visitors you and I will spot during April?

Do let me know if you can – Thank You!


Amanda C Vesty
Amanda C Vesty
May 01, 2020

An absolutely charming study of some of our beloved birds. Thank you as always xxx


Geoffrey Hart
Geoffrey Hart
Mar 28, 2020

I love your birds john, and very interesting and informative captions.


Amanda C Vesty
Amanda C Vesty
Mar 28, 2020

LOVE this John! Adore your illustrations. I love our birds and this is lovely. Thank you so much. xxx

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