I have waited years for today. Years. Today is my birthday (you can send gifts next year) and I found a Wheatear. Not just a Wheatear. The first Wheatear. Like I say, I've waited years for this to fall into place. In all previous years I've either found one well before my birthday, or my birthday has been and gone, Wheatearless. Last year somebody else found the first Wheatear, luckily not on my birthday - I'm not sure what I would have done. This year however I struck gold.
I awoke at 5am and looked outside - raining. FFS. I went back to bed. When I awoke again a few hours later, I looked outside again. Snowing. FFS! I went back to bed. Again. After a nice family breakfast, and in receipt of a message from Tim regarding a Great Crested Grebe on Alex, I decided that a quick spin around the Flats was in order. GC Grebe on the Flats is pretty mega - so mega in fact that I was convinced it was a patch tick* and hastened over there. Grebe in the bag, and with little else likely, I decided to walk the ditch to the west of Alex. Approaching the end of said ditch, I was amazed to be looking at a small bird with a very white rear end flying back past me. Unbelievably I'd done it! I'd scored a Wheatear on my birthday! Years. I've been waiting years, and finally it's happened - the greatest birthday present ever!
Here are some very important stats. God knows what I was playing at in 2009.
2009: March 15th, #63
2010: March 20th, #71
2011: March 30th, #81
2012: March 16th, #81
2013: March 23rd, #77
Usually the first Wheatear of the year heralds spring. Not so this year. It's filthy out there, and I can only feel sorry for the poor bird. As I type, snow is flying horizontally past the window - it is disgusting. And yet there is a Wheatear on Wanstead Flats. It has come a very long way, and is no doubt regretting its decision to leave Africa. Of course it is the first of many, but the point is that it is the first. I had no camera, blizzard conditions had convinced me that there was no point. When will I learn? All subsequent Wheatear twitchers dipped. Instead here is one from my extensive back catalogue.....
* Nick "Lee" Croft got in touch immediately. No, he said, it wasn't a Flats tick. I had seen one on the same day I had found an LRP a few years back. I checked when I got home, and bugger me if he wasn't right.