“This rare Hoopoe was spotted yesterday in a garden at Corscombe. It stayed close to the kitchen window sheltering from the rain for 20 minutes to enable Phil Hammans to take these splendid photos.

The recently published Devon Birds annual report for 2018 states the Hoopoe is a ‘very scarce passage migrant. The recent annual maximum was 14 (12 in spring) in 2004. 2018 records: ‘a poor year with just four records. Spring; one was well watched at Velkator on 15-16 April; one was seen from a tractor at Roadford Reservoir on 30 April; and one at the entrance to Stover car park on 31 May.’  

There are a few sightings from Belstone parish; one recorded by the author Douglas St Leger-Gordon in spring 1929; one seen near Tor Down circa 1980 by John White (who lived at Rew Meadow); and this record from 1982, the following words extracted from The Book of Belstone; “There is a final ornithological story to tell, about the most exotic visitor of all.  19 April 1982 was a sunny day with a cool south-easterly breeze.  Wal Towler, who wrote the Nature Notes in The Beacon for many years, received a phone call from Mr White, abandoned his lunch and headed for Belstone.  When he arrived at Barn Close (Heather Moor), the home of Eber and Vera Ford, Messrs White and Vaughan were already there.  The cause of the excitement was easily visible from the lounge, calmly eating leatherjackets on the lawn.  It was a hoopoe, common in southern Europe but rare in England.  It stayed in the garden for a few days, and was a regular sight around Throwleigh and Gidleigh for the rest of the summer.

Chris Walpole