and the annual spring marvel
Yesterday a walk around the patch produced a good 12 plus Wheatears in a small area of cliff top. A Dunlin and Redshank also flushed from a tasty looking cliff top pool, newly dug. This is on the Northern side of Flamborough, the same kind of place revved up Scandinavian Rock pipits assemble as they await ideal weather in March. These Wheatears too had stopped just long enough to refuel. However the combination of characters on most individuals said Greenland, Iceland or NE Canada was their destination. Making them one of only 2 passerines (small perching bird) which routinely cross an ocean between wintering and breeding grounds. (Do you know the other one?). I find watching such smart looking birds with quite unfathomable flight plans and subtle subspecies difference to work out- one of birding’s treasures.
Some of the males had the combination of more extensive soft pastel orange below, weak brown patch (not all grey) between the shoulders and brown flecks in the black mask typical of leucorhoa (Greenland Wheatears). They stood more upright, taller looking, a whole different gestalt to nominate European/ British breeders. I don’t know of counting primaries really works (6+ for nominate oenanthe, 7-8 for leucorhoa). If I can see 7 primary tips I am happy.
Females look more grey- brown and peachy than nominate feamles. And why come along the east coast- surely better to leave Africa and head straight to the west of Ireland. But then if you are heading to Arctic Canada from sub-Saharan Africa- what’s a few hundred extra kilometres between friends?!
Do you have other/different thoughts on identifying NW bound (‘Greenland-type’) Wheatears in spring?
Marvel?- I do. Every spring!
and this field full of Cowslips was nearby to inviting a short stop and enjoyed too: