Mike Newby is Estate Warden at The Dartington Hall Trust. He oversees Dartington’s numerous conservation programmes, often working closely with our volunteers to help nature flourish across the estate.
A female stonechat was recently spotted on the estate in the hedgerow by the River Dart whilst we were doing a winter stubble bird survey.
It was even captured on camera – this photograph was expertly taken by Ian, the Estate Plumbing and Heating Engineer.
A stonechat is roughly about the same size as a robin. It is one of our few resident insect-eating birds and they are highly vulnerable to bad winter weather.
Males have prominent black heads with a white collar around their neck, orange-red breast and a speckled brown back. The females have brown backs and an orange shade to their chests.
Both sexes are easily seen because of their preference for the tops of bushes, fence posts and other noticeable perches. Stonechats are often seen flicking their wings whilst sat on their perch.
They have a piercing loud call that sounds like two stones being tapped together. This is probably where the bird gets its name from.
Stonechats usually breed in western and southern parts of the UK. According to the RSPB, there are around 59,000 breeding pairs of stonechat in the UK.