Tuesday 12 December 2017

Wheatear update

Back in 2014 I wrote this post about World Wheatearing – you can read it here. At that point I was at 50%, or 11 out of 22 species. I resolved to see more and so it is with great pleasure that three years later I can report that has been a significant change. My dedication to the cause now means that I have seen the following, a grand total of 17 species.

Black Wheatear - Morocco and Spain
Black-eared Wheatear - Spain, Southern France and Cyprus
Capped Wheatear - South Africa.
Cyprus Wheatear – Cyprus, duh.
Desert Wheatear – Morocco, UAE and various UK vagrants.

Familiar Chat – South Africa.
Finsch's Wheatear - Cyprus.
Hooded Wheatear - Cyprus and UAE

Hume's Wheatear – UAE
Isabelline Wheatear – UK vagrant, UAE, Bulgaria and Cyprus.
Mourning Wheatear - Morocco
Northern Wheatear - Wanstead!!
Pied Wheatear – UK vagrant and Bulgaria
Red-rumped Wheatear – Morocco

Red-tailed Wheatear – UAE
Variable Wheatear - UAE
White-crowned Black Wheatear – Morocco. I didn’t bother with Scunthorpe.

Excellent, only another five to go then! Oops.

Arabian Wheatear - Arabian peninsula.
Heuglin's Wheatear - transitional area in sub-Saharan Africa, from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east.
Kurdish Wheatear - Turkey, Middle East, winters in Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Sudan etc.
Mountain Wheatear - Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.
Red-breasted Wheatear - Eritrea and Ethiopia, western Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Somali Wheatear - Ethiopia and Somalia.

Unfortunately it is not that simple (as you can probably tell as there are in fact six above, not five), as since I wrote my post the boffins have since reclassified six birds into the Oenanthe clan. Five of these were formely known as Cercomela, and one was a Myrmecochicla. So in addition to the original missing Oenanthe species above, I now need the following five species as well.

White-fronted Black Chat – Central Africa
Blackstart – North Africa, Middle East and Arabian Peninsula
Brown Rock Chat - India
Brown-tailed Rock Chat – East Africa
Sombre Rock Chat – Ethiopia and Somalia

Note that this is only five birds, whereas six were moved. As it happens I saw one last week, the Familiar Chat in South Africa - above. As I was photographing it on stony ground at a place called Rooi-Els, I commented that it looked and behaved quite like a Wheatear. Turns out I could apply for the post of boffin as this is exactly what the powers that be have decided as well. So I am already making progress against the revised list, albeit that despite having seen a further six species I still require 11 to complete the set. At least the perecentage has gone up though – 17 out of 28 = 61%. However as we all know, the only important statistic regarding Wheatear ticks is the absolute number of those ticks, as well as getting passable photos of them. I am pleased to report that with the exception of Variable Wheatear, I have photos of everything and that many of them are pretty decent. You can browse many of them here, and order your Wheatear calendar when I get round to making it.

So, what of the missing 11 then? Well, Arabian Wheatear and Kurdish Wheatear are potentially on the cards in Oman next year, and I have designs on Blackstart as part of a possible trip to Israel. I’m somewhat stumped on the others though – the danger in some of those places is possibly higher than it was three years ago. East Africa looks promising, and somewhere like Ethiopia might not be that dangerous, or at least not in the same league as Somalia or Mauritania. Anyway, good to force myself to work out the update and start a bit of planning. Mmmm, travel!


  1. I've seen Blackstart in Israel Jonno... just saying...

    1. A shame that idiot in the White House recently stoked up tensions again really, but I'll get there one day.

  2. Let me know if you want a trip to Namibia soon, then. I may even buy a calendar.

  3. It's good to have an unusual and completely inexplicable focus in one's life - to all those non-birders anyway!