Archive for Apr 29th, 2015


The sky, a bird and a pile of s**t

As good friend Tony was driving home after work one night last week he noticed the same cloud formations I had seen from the back garden here at Falcon Cottage. It was worthy of a Spielberg scene; bulbous, moody and dark with radiating structures. So unearthly was the appearance he pulled up at the side of the road to take a good look. It was only then he noticed the large colourful Wheatear sitting upon the manure heap at the edge of the adjacent field.

When we talking about the sky later he mentioned the ‘Greenland’ race Wheatear prompting me to go and photograph it a few days later.

Identification of Greenlands is never straight forward and requires a suite of features to be seen. Many cannot be fully allocated to race and I feel sure there must be intergrades. Greenlands are big birds that stand upright. They have more peach daubed on the front than any self-respecting Northern Wheatear would ever be seen dressed in. Greenlands are the Toby Jugs of the Wheatear world; pot-bellied and rotund. The adult’s mantle is sullied with rust compared with the mirror grey of Northern. Long winged compared with their northern counterpart these birds fly a long, long way. At this time of year they have an epic migration from Kenya and beyond all the way north to Greenland.

I’m not completely endeared to such rich insults on the olfactory sense; this bird and I spent quite some time playing hide and seek around the manure pile before eventually it got used to me and saw me as completely benign.

It was maybe the bright morning sun bleaching out the plumage leading me to think the peachy breast perhaps didn’t go down the belly far enough. It wasn’t until I saw the photograph showing seven exposed primary tips as opposed to Northern’s five to six that I was convinced the identification was beyond doubt. Lovely bird. Thanks Tony.

Greenland Wheatear I

Greenland Wheatear III

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Apr 2015


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