Monday, 21 November 2016

Time to get the Christmas decorations up!

Forget the waxwing invasion, the build up of geese and swans on the mosslands, the arrival of great grey shrikes, and forget even the John Lewis Christmas advert, winter truly arrived in the north-west this weekend with the discovery yesterday of that much loved, keenly anticipated and jovial winter character, a 1st winter male desert wheatear on the beach at Lytham St. Annes. All it lacks is a Father Christmas hat and a sack full of presents! All of the desert wheatears I have seen have been in late November or December, and when one finally arrives I know it's time to get the Pogues, Greg Lake and Slade on the car entertainment system. Time to start buying the mince pies, salted peanuts and shed loads of booze for all of the visitors who will never actually call round. Time to dust down the Bob Dylan Christmas CD and start decorating the Christmas tree.

But who needs a new pair of socks or a re-run of the 1974 Morecombe and Wise Christmas special when you're on the beach at the end of November as the sun comes out and you're in the company of such a confiding desert wheatear? I sat patiently and waited, and it quite happily approached to within a few feet, picking flies off the sand, quite unconcerned by my presence or that of the nearby gathering of birders and dog walkers. What a cracking bird! They breed in North Africa and the Middle East, and though described as short distance migrants, they arrive in the UK annually in small numbers. Why they should want to come to the UK for the winter is beyond me.

Year: 255 (Desert wheatear)


This guy really deserves a place on a Christmas card as much as a robin.




I'm not sure if the lower mandible is too long or the upper too short. I suspect the former.

Unlike the familiar "British" northern wheatear which has a white rump and large amounts of white in the tail, desert wheatear has a buffy white rump and only a small amount of white in the tail, which is mainly black. I must say though that I don't recall seeing a desert wheatear with such a buff rump as this.

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