Wheatear. Pete Woodruff.
No other bird heralds the spring for me more than the Wheatear and I look forward to finding my first one of 2011 in early March when I start looking seriously at places like Cockersands where I've found most of my first Wheatears in the past.
The spring migration of this bird is quite a protracted affair and the first migrants of oenanthe will by now have already left their wintering grounds with the males on average leaving a week or two before the females, in exceptional cases some of these male birds could be found on the south coast by the end of this month. Incidentally, birds of the 'Greenland' race leucorhoa undergo what is probably the longest transoceanic migration of any other passerine.
Today breeding in the UK is chiefly on altitudes above 300m in Scotland, northwestern and southwesten England, Wales, and western Ireland, but Oakes described the Wheatear as a mossland breeder, claiming them to be holding their own on several mosses into the mid-twentieth century, he eventually blamed increasing urbanisation for a decrease on the Fylde and Sefton coasts where none nested on the latter dunes after 1955 and with no reported breeding on the mosslands in more than 25 years. The Carnforth slag tips - which have laid claim to fame with a Shorelark there recently - was a long-established colony with nearly a double figure of Wheatear pairs breeding there in the 1980's which had declined to two during 1998-2004.
The last sighting of Wheatear has usually been made by the end of October, but records of birds in late November are frequent and include one seen at Sunderland Point on 24 November 1985, a sighting only surpassed by one seen at Rossall Point three days later in the same year on 27 November. I'll be on the lookout in a few weeks time, though if 2010 is anything to go by it will be 23 March when I found three birds on Clougha at over 300m....perhaps birds already on territory by then.
And finally, an excellent pic and a couple of notes....
Snow Bunting. David Cookson
I keep coming across 'photographs with a difference' lately and this one of the Snow Bunting is no exception....Brilliant David and many thanks.
The Slaty-backed Gull had turned up again yesterday at Hanningfield Reservoir in Essex but not seen since. Today a Belted Kingfisher - a common waterside bird throughout North America - was found at Co. Derry, 10 miles SE of Londonderry.