Friday, May 13, 2016

American Beauty

It's that time of year when - often after a short gap in transmissions - Wheatears reappear on Carr Naze and North Cliff here in Filey, and although some are far from cut and dry, many show characteristics consistent with the Greenland and north-east Canadian race Leucorhoa. Identification criteria vary depending on where you look and who you listen to, and less distinctive individuals are no doubt better left alone, but there are several cracking males kicking around presently that fit the bill as well as any and invite a bit more attention (especially with there being pretty much f.a else to look at lately).

This bird has occupied the same spot for several days (discouraged from moving on by the brisk northerly winds?), and is pretty much as close as one can get to a classic Leucorhoa - big, pot-bellied, long-winged (with at least seven and perhaps eight primaries on show - see lowest photo), messy upperparts with much brown admixed, a broad terminal tail-band (see flight shot), a very upright stance (apart from when hunched into a strong wind) and most obviously, extensive vibrant orangey-peach below extending along the flanks and beyond the belly.

I was showing it to a few locals the other day and trotted out a few facts about them, including for example how it has one (if not the) longest migration of any passerine and how it routinely crosses thousands of miles of open sea, and it struck me yet again just how magical this is - and what a privilege it is to have what are in reality North American breeding birds routinely hopping around against the modest backdrop of the local patch.