Posts Tagged ‘Greenland Wheatear


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



As I walked from the front door into the garden on Wednesday I looked up to see the distinctive shape of a Red Kite. The bird flew strongly west followed by a Buzzard and then a Marsh Harrier. A raptor passage in North Norfolk was on the cards. Flat bottomed Cumulus clouds meant there were some strong thermals rising and the birds of prey were taking advantage; using them to move north and west along the coast.

Amid a cloud of Buzzards and Sparrowhawks we saw a larger paler bird. A Rough legged Buzzard on the move. Perhaps having wintered in the southern counties or even on the continent, the bird was now making a trek north to breed.

On the cliffs were a host of Wheatears and included within them a larger bolder bird – a ‘Greenland Wheatear’ resting before continuing its mammoth journey north to breed. The ‘chak chak’ of a Ring Ouzel gave away the presence of a pair in the hedgerow. Maybe these are the birds we will see in the Scottish Glens on the first of two April trips north at the weekend. I adore Ring Ousels; their neat white bibs and silver wings give a marked contrast to their otherwise jet plumage.

Waders are scarce in this part of Norfolk. There is little standing water to attract them here. As I stood against an irrigation pool I heard a small wader call above me. She flew down to take rest at the water’s edge. The little madam did not land at the far side of the water but close to me, close enough to grab a shot or two. She was in transitionary plumage; a ball of spots and streaks, a half way house between her winter and breeding garb, a longish bill indicating her gender.

Nice to see so many things on the move.

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May 2023


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