Cleveland WayWhitby to Robin Hood's Bay, Holiday Diary, Monday 14th June 1999
A HOOPOE flies up from the long grasses of the cliff top a few yards ahead of us. For a few moments we have a perfect view of its tiger-stripes of cinnamon and brown, its long, slightly down-curved bill and its long crest. Then it veers away.
A few minutes later it emerges again and is pursued across a pasture by a pipit. In flight its broad wings make it look a bit like a giant avian butterfly.
It's many years since I've seen a hoopoe and that was on Majorca. Bill Oddie suggests the only reliable sitings of hoopoes in Britain are from vicars who see them on their lawns!
It's not the rarity of the bird that makes it so special for me. I could easily go and see rarer visitors to Britain by checking out a telephone bird-line. It's because this was so unexpected, we found it ourselves and the bird is one of the most exotic looking on the British list. It wouldn't look out of place in the rain forest.
By the way, they have a lot more black and white on the ends of the wings that I've shown in my sketch, but I've recorded the impression that it made on me. Our closest view was of the underside of the wings.
Almost as unusual is a view of two Stoats which emerge from the long cliff-top grasses a bit further on. Their actions are playful and inquisitive as they watch us coming, turn and hide in the grasses, and, when we have passed by, they emerge on the track again.
A hairy caterpillar, almost the length of my little finger, and coloured like a Persian carpet, has also ventured out onto the path.
Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Wrens sing from shrubs in hollows along the cliff top path and along the edges of the railway walk on our return journey. Our interest in an orchid rich meadow on what used to be a railway siding is curtailed by a strange commotion of wasps which sting, on the head, five out of seven passers by in course of fifteen minutes. About fifty wasps are in the air as we hurry past, all whizzing east to west at head height across the old railway over a one hundred yard stretch. Its like being caught in crossfire.