This smart, alert-looking bird passes through our area on its migration route. The males seem to be the first Spring arrivals, starting in mid-March and moving quickly through to their breeding grounds. The last birds go through by about the middle of May and then we don't see them again until the Autumn.

The birds start returning in August and, as the examples below show, their plumage is very different from when they pass through in Springtime in breeding finery.

Photo - April 2005

The picture on the left (August 2003) shows the white rump and black 'T' tail marking so characteristic of the departing wheatear. These birds have a pretty consistent closest approach distance, so it was a while before I got any enlargeable pictures.

However, occasionally an individual bird does seem prepared to pose for a whole portfolio of shots which will enlarge - see the examples below.

Photographs above - September 2003 (Autumn Plumage)

The shot on the right is not very sharp, but, unlike those above does show the Wheatear's white rump. This bird posed for a number of photographs, but the clearest was the one on the left, taken at the moment of departure.

Photographs (above) - October 2004 (Autumn Plumage)

Photographs (above) - April 2005 (Spring Plumage)

In the Spring of 2005 a pair of Wheatears seemed to like it so much here at Barton that they chose not to move on northwards. The youngster pictured below was the result. Sadly, this seems to have been a one-off occurence, there being no sign of any breeding attempts the following year.

Photographs (above) - June 2005

In August 2005, I was trying to photograph a Black Redstart which had appeared on the undercliff. It continued to evade the camera, but the Wheatears kept on popping up and seemed to be saying 'why not photograph me? I'm much more handsome'. They were right, too!

Photographs (left and below) - August 2005

In Autumn 2006, the Wheatears came through as usual, looking as handsome as ever -

Photograph (right) - August 2006

Then, one day in September, I counted the largest passage of Wheatears I have ever seen here at Barton - some 40 birds in less than half an hour. By pure coincidence, I had only the previous evening been told that Wheatears from Greenland also sometimes come through here, so I wondered whether this might have contributed to the large numbers.

Apparently identification of Greenland Wheatears from plumage alone is not easy. However, some local experts have confirmed that the appearance of the birds pictured below is consistent with them being of that race.

Photographs (above) - September 2006

The Autumn passage of the Wheatears is usually over by the end of October but, one crisp November morning, I came across this solitary bird. Not only was it late but it was behaving a little differently - trying to catch a butterfly in flight and perching on the benches, just like the resident Stonechats.

Photographs - November 2006

In the Autumn of 2009 there were again a few confiding birds.

Photographs - September 2009

Once more there was still one bird around in early November

Photographs - November 2009

Six years on from my first sighting of a juvenile Wheatear here at Barton, I finally came across another one. No trace of the parents this time - the bird was feeding in the company of a juvenile Rock Pipit and a Pied Wagtail.

This was on the 10th July which is too early for the regular Autumn passage so it is odds on that it was bred locally, albeit not on the short stretch of shoreline which I usually walk.

Photograph - July 2011

In October 2011, this bird seemed happy to pose for a few pictures.

Photographs (above) - October 2011

Another autumn, another Wheatear! This one looked a little lost. I don't know whether the white tufts towards the rear of the wing indicate a first year bird or just an incomplete moult. It does make you wonder about it's chances if it has to tackle the migration on its own.

Photograph (right) - October 2012

The winter of 2012/13 dragged on and on. The male below was the first sighting of the Spring on 22nd April.

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