The first Wheatear

Throughout the winter there will be birders up and down the length of the country who look forward to the Spring's first Wheatear - it is a species emblematic of warmer days, is colourful and characterful, the vanguard of a whole host of migrants that will come to our shores over the months of March, April and May. It is a sighting pregnant with hope, bestowed with affection and greeted with a smile. Think I'm over the top? If anything, I'm not gushing enough.

This afternoon I was back at Canons Farm, pleased to be watching a group of five Stonechats in the Reeds Rest Bottom area. I love chats, my favourite bird family if I had to nominate one. As I slowly walked towards a male that was foraging along the edge of a field, a flash of white reared up in front of me. It couldn't be, could it?

The bird alighted on a clod of earth and revealed itself in all its glory - a Northern Wheatear. My first for the year. In fact, this appears to be the first this year in Surrey and London, even beating such coastal hot-spots as Dungeness and Portland Bill to the prize. I was surprised to note that it was a female, as most of the early arrivals tend to be males. The bird consorted with the Stonechats, and for the next hour I watched them as they fed in the furrows, with the odd dash off to perch on the isolated fence posts.

My previous earliest for the Uberpatch was on 13 March 1977 at Beddington SF. Today's bird equaled my UK best, which is 11 March 1978 at Pagham Harbour. A true trailblazer is this female. She is welcome indeed to our shores, awaiting the hordes yet to come.


Gavin Haig said…
Nice one Steve. Does that mean you win your own trophy? :-)
Steve Gale said…
If only I hadn’t stopped it this year...
Chris Janman said…
Just proves you don't have to be on the coast to get an early goodie.
Steve Gale said…
Jono - oops indeed.

Chris - just as well for me!

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