Friday, 15 January 2016

Wheatear World

I apologise for doing two posts in a row that are about birds. I know that it is probably not what you were expecting but my recent visit to Cyprus has got me all enthused about Wheatears again. And Wheatears are obviously birds – spectacular ones as it happens. Not that I was ever un-enthusiastic about them you understand, but until last weekend I hadn’t seen one since about September so they had faded somewhat. However seeing that male Finsch’s Wheatear perched on the ruined buildings of the abandoned village on Monday reminded me – keenly – what superb things they are, and since then I’ve been thinking about little else. How can I see more of them? Where do they live? How can I get there? If I go there will I be killed?

Actually that’s not quite true. Wheatear research was briefly interrupted by the need to do my tax return, but with the pages on Black-eared Wheatear left open, I completed this in record time. Naturally I got completely rinsed once again, but not to the point where Wheatear missions would have to be abandoned, so I fired it off and got back to my reading. Never best to dwell on bad news.

I should step back a bit, as quite a lot of Wheatear occurred before the spectre of HMRC made itself known. It started with a list, as all thorough bird research ought to. A list of all the species of Wheatears in the world. I then divided this list into two, Wheatears I have not seen, and Wheatears that I have seen. As I mentioned a few days ago I’m not really up for going to the Yemen or Somalia just at the moment, so whilst I wait for democracy to be invented and religion abolished, I thought I would go through the Wheatears I have seen, not just to re-live the good times, but also to see if there could be better times. So I sub-divided this list into Wheatears I’ve got decent photos of and Wheatears I don’t, and this is how I eventually got to Black-eared Wheatear – I could only find two photos, both of which are a load of old rubbish. So where could I go to improve upon these? The answer is many places, especially as there is an eastern and western race….

And naturally I did this for all 15 of the species that I’ve so far managed to see. Roughly two-thirds of them I seem to be in pretty good shape with, the other third could do with some improvement though, in some cases significant improvement. Six species don’t really make the grade, and this is of course excellent news. Rather than risk life and limb in Angola for my next Wheatear fix, I can simply nip to Spain or wherever and have another pop at Black-eared. Pied is another one that requires some additional love, and as I said I didn’t do very well on Hooded or Hume’s either. And don’t even talk to me about Variable….

The other happy conclusion to this frenzy of activity is that I am now pleased to be able to direct you to my new shiny Wheatear galleries, where I have arranged the species one by one, and put up what I consider to be the best images I’ve got. Or in some cases, images that are a total pile of dross but that are the only ones I’ve got at the moment. Welcome to Wheatear World!

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