In some ways, June is a quiet month for birding. But it is also a month when unusual species have a habit of appearing. All five of these birds would be worth seeing this month.
Always scarce, the magnificent, slim, buoyant Montagu’s Harrier has become an extremely rare UK breeder in recent years with fewer than half a dozen pairs in the southern half of the country. Monatgu’s Harriers are summer migrants, and some are always found wandering in June. The smaller males are slightly darker grey and more streaked than male Hen Harriers, with distinctive black lines on the upper and underwings. Females look a bit like very slim Hen Harrier females. Look in areas of open country, from rough grassland to arable fields.
A rare relative of the Grasshopper, although in Reed Warbler’s clothing, the Savi’s Warbler is more tied to reedbeds than most Grasshopper Warblers. Like its cousin, it almost invariably betrays its presence only when singing; and the song is continuous and somewhat insect-like, like that of the Grasshopper Warbler, but slightly deeper in tone (and so, theoretically at least, should be within the range of more birders’ hearing). Look for a plain brown warbler, with long rather dark buff undertail coverts, singing from a reed stem.
The delightful Dipper is, of course, largely a resident species, which spends most of its life in and along (mainly) fast flowing streams, often in highland country. Adults are pretty unmistakable birds if seen well: plump and resembling a giant Wren, but largely blackish brown with a contrasting pure white throat and breast. Now is the time of year when the juveniles are out and about, and they look a little different from adults. They are the same shape, but have scaly grey plumage (with a white throat and white eyelids like the adults).
Baby Coots are, if you will forgive the East Anglian accent pun, very cute, particularly when they are very young and fluffy. They are like little black pompoms with a strange pinky-red bald crown, blue ’eye shadow’, bright red bill and golden flecks of fine fibrous feathers around the head. Usually they are in the company of their parents, which makes them easy to identify!
One of Europe’s best-looking birds, the Bearded Tit is a favourite of just about everyone. And rightly so, as these are exceptionally pleasing birds on the eye (as well as the ear, with their strange but lovely ‘ping ping…’ contact calls). Males are particularly attractive with their pale blue heads and drooping black moustaches and lores (and black undertail coverts), plus bright yellow eyes. Females are less exciting but still very attractive, and both genders have tiny brown, black and white wings and long graduated tails. At this time of year, Bearded Tits go about in family groups with the black backed juveniles (also with black in the outer tail) joining the adults. They are nearly exclusively birds of reedbeds, especially in the height of summer; and are scarce breeders, with only about 630 pairs at selected sites across the country.