Thursday, April 3, 2014

Greenland Bound

I wasn’t too sure about this morning’s first Wheatear, a second year male with lots of last year’s brown juvenile feathers on the crown and ear coverts. At first it both felt and looked rather bulky, but its weight was in line with ones caught recently, the wing measurement longer at 105mm. The weight of 26 grams was slightly above those of last week although upon closer examination there wasn’t a hint of excess fat; in fact the poor thing seemed a little on the skinny side. There are no midnight snacks or raiding the fridge during a Wheatear’s overnight journey. 

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

The second bird was a “Greenland” before I even took it from the trap. Big and bright this adult male easily met the biometric parameters for Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa, the large and colourful so called “Greenland” race of Northern Wheatear. Its wing measurement of 116mm was equal to that of a Redwing or a Song Thrush, it had a smidgen of migratory fat in the furculum and weighed in at 29.8 grams. What a cracker of a bird! 

Northern Wheatear - "Greenland" type - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa 

Northern Wheatear - "Greenland" type - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa

Wiki's summary is superb. 

"The Northern Wheatear makes one of the longest journeys of any small bird, crossing ocean, ice, and desert. It migrates from Sub-Saharan Africa in Spring over a vast area of the northern hemisphere that includes northern and central Asia, Europe, Greenland, Alaska, and parts of Canada. 

Birds of the large, bright Greenland race, leucorhoa, makes one of the longest transoceanic crossings of any passerine. In spring most migrate along a route (commonly used by waders and waterfowl) from Africa via continental Europe, the British Isles, and Iceland to Greenland. However, autumn sightings from ships suggest that some birds cross the North Atlantic directly from Canada and Greenland to southwest Europe, a distance of up to 2500 km). 

Birds breeding in eastern Canada are thought to fly from Baffin Island and Newfoundland via Greenland, Ireland, and Portugal to the Azores (crossing 3500 km of the North Atlantic) before flying onwards to Africa. Other populations from western Canada and Alaska migrate by flying over much of Eurasia to Africa. 

Miniature tracking devices have recently shown that the Northern Wheatear has one of the longest migratory flights known - 30,000 km from sub-Saharan Africa to their Arctic breeding grounds."

A blogging pal in Ontario offered to swap a few Blue Jays and Cardinals for a Northern Wheatear. David, I sent two Wheatears in your direction this morning, last seen heading quickly North and West and so coming your way soon. I’ll settle for an autumn warbler thanks and on the blue theme, a Cerulean would be rather nice. 

Northern Wheatear

Things were quiet along the sea wall this morning, the overcast conditions not conducive to migration even though the 7 or 8 Wheatears I saw obviously found a way through the gloom. 

At Lane Ends I heard and saw my first Willow Warbler of the Spring with the now regular Chiffchaff in good voice. A Lesser Redpoll, a few Meadow Pipits and Linnets flew east, and apart from 4 Skylarks that was it. 

On the wildfowler’s pools are reasonable numbers of Teal, 19 or 20 birds which fly out to the salt marsh when disturbed, while the group of 9 Shoveler circle for a while before returning to the pools. 


There are more birds and bird pictures soon from Another Bird Blog. Log in tomorrow and see "what's about".

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.


Dział Przyrody MŚO said...

Hi Phil! Great shots :-)
Very beautiful Northern Wheatear (in our country the name of this bird is "białorzytka". We love these ducks - polish name "płaskonosy" - flat nose :-)

eileeninmd said...

Phil gorgeous shots and closeups of your Wheatear! Maybe one of your Wheatears will be blown off course and end up here, LOL! Awesome flight capture! Happy birding and have a great weekend!

David Gascoigne said...

My God, Phil, you drive a hard bargain. However, here's my deal. If the Wheatear arrives, fearing that I will not be able to deliver a Cerulean Warbler to you, I will get on a plane and fly to Britain to buy you dinner at a fine restaurant of your choice.
Ever your devoted Canadian Correspondent,

Jen said...

When I finally make my way to Canada or Alaska, I'll keep an eye out for those Wheatears.

I hear the Cerulean Warbler migrates through Texas, so I'll be hunting for him in the next couple of months.

Russell Jenkins said...

I can't imagine such round little birds crossing oceans and deserts. Wonderful post, Phil. I wish I could leave out something somewhere to help them. Birds work so hard but our urbanisation doesn't much include their plans. We need to tell the world more about them. Which you have kindly done.

grammie g said...

Hey Phil... For a minute there I thought you was heading off to Greenland, and I was thinking what a fool he is LOL hahaha!!

Would be nice to visit some of these places our feathered friends end up in there travels! It might be a way to loss some weight though!!

By the way you always have nice shots of your many times have you got
pooped on??? ; )

You buddy from the great state of Mind.. oh I mean Maine!!


Christian Perrin said...

Fascinating info, Phil! I'm always amazed at the journeys such tiny animals can make. I particularly like Wheatears because I remember seeing them while hiking through the Norwegian highlands one summer and they seemed so friendly off to the side of the trail.

That Shoveller photo is magnificent - you really freezed the action there!

Margaret Adamson said...

HI Phil that is one special bird. Thanks for the great photos and information regarding its migration. Great flight shot of the ducks. Have a great weekend.

Mary Cromer said...

Good morning Phil, what beauties the Wheatears are. Now, do say...I do hope you gave that first bird a fill up of meal worms so it will have a good journey...yes? ;) The heavier bird, WOW what a handsome one. BUSY BUSY around here, and sunny weather coming should help today with the tasks at hand. Happy weekend~

EG CameraGirl said...

I would love to spot and photograph a wheatear! Great shots1

Terri @ Backward B Ranch said...

That's another new one for me- great shots!

Snap said...

Wonderful shots of the wheatears. Happy Critter Day!

Karen said...

Ha, I thought you were off to Greenland Phil! The birds come to you so why bother! Handsome birds, I can't imagine holding a bird in my hand, must be a blast!

Gunilla Bäck said...

Beautiful photos of the wheatears.

Bob Bushell said...

You caught a Northern Wheatear, and in its summer plumages, bravo Phil.

Janet Shaw said...

Northern Wheatear, cute little guy.:)

HansHB said...

Lovely photos! Interesting details!

Chris Rohrer said...

Nice to see your Shovelers:) We have them here. I am not familiar with the Wheateaters and hope to observe them in the wild someday. That is quite the trip. Imagine flying from Africa.....incredible!

Janice Adcock said...

Great shots and terrific information.

Shey Wicklund said...

That is such an amazing and long journey by a small bird. So awesome. Would love to see a northern wheatear too.

Dave said...

interesting post, Got me wondering how many Greenland birds I have seen and never realised. Now I will check a little more when I come across them.

Kenneth Cole Schneider said...

Beautiful bird! A wayward wheatear is now being seen in New Mexico,

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