Monday 7 October 2013

West Wales for a Wheatear

I am weak. Very weak. Almost as weak as Bradders who hot-footed it down to the Thames for a Guillemot he professed to having little interest in.... But it was a Wheatear, and therefore a worthy bird. Did I recently blog about it being pale? Sandy? Bo-ring? No, I don't remember that, all I know is that now the drive to the ends of the earth is over and done, I am a very happy bunny indeed. From looking at a few photos online, I had suspected that the bird would be relatively tame - most vagrant Wheatears I've seen in this country have been - i.e., a handful of Desert Wheatears. I hoped that this one would be the same. But first there was the matter of 300 odd miles.

Interminable. Not content with the southern section of the M25, I then had to drive the entire length of the M4, and then head out west some more. Reading. Swindon. Bristol. Newport. Cardiff. Bridgend. Port Talbot. Neath. Swansea. Llanelli. Carmarthen. Every flipping city in Wales except Aberystwyth it seemed. The roads got smaller and smaller until they turned into a one-lane track, which then stopped altogether. In golden sunshine, Nick and I emerged from the car, blinking in the bright light. Had we really arrived? With only sea in front of us, it appeared we had.

The bird was immediately visible on a path in front of us once we had climbed the short slope. Gloriously pale. Gloriously sandy.  And Gloriously confiding. Oh yes, this was one of these birds, as I had surmised. With a gentle breeze and the sound of seals on the beach, and the warm sun on my face, I flopped gratefully onto the short grass and waited. It didn't take long - the bird favoured an area that had at one point during the week been laced with mealworms. Although none were left, the thought that a few may have been overlooked was enough to keep my little eastern friend coming back to check regularly. What a great bird, when it came to within about 15 feet I knew that I would have come even further for it and still been happy. A few walkers, a few seal admirers, but nobody stayed for long, and for the most part Nick and I enjoyed the bird with just one other guy. Compare that with a twitch in the south-east - yet more rationale for putting a massive distance between us and crowd hysteria. The Grosbeak was the same, as was the Harlequin. Remote headlands with rare birds on them are basically win win.


This is a bog standard Wheatear for comparative purposes.

The journey back took even longer than the journey there. And this despite my being completely profligate with fuel consumption in order to get us home as soon as possible. So much so that extreme guilt overcame me this afternoon, and I nursed almost 53mpg out of it on the way back from another pale bird in Suffolk.....


  1. You are very nearly tempting me to go! Fabulous bird, fabulous photos

  2. Excellent photos, good to meet you at the bird Sat aft after enjoying your column in Birdwatch.........

  3. Lovely photos Jonathan, and a nice account of your trip out west (I found the bird, glad you got to enjoy it).

  4. Fantastic images. Well done :) here are a few of my latest from Bulgaria