Friday 9 April 2010

Wheatear methadone

Someone recently wrote that seeing a wheatear in spring was better than something entirely different. Of course I completely disagree - at least that's not the case as far as my private personal experiences go - but then I read on and found the following passages:

"...local patch-watchers have been out all weekend straining to find themselves the only passage migrant they're likely to see all spring on their dismal inland beats."


"Tom Logan, a patch-watcher from Croydon said 'I found a male Wheatear yesterday morning on the area of miserable industrial wasteland I like to think of as semi-arid upland habitat'."

This is when the shocking truth unveiled its crimson deathly cloak and looked me right in the eye:

That post's author is right - entirely and fully completely so!

At the Baltic coast, wheatears were the sorry passerine bunch on the barren fields that I only glanced over or nonchalantly looked at with pity after a full force day filled with 25+ species of waders (the shorebirds of North America), a multitude of huge raptors, and waterfowl in their bazillions. I guess I sometimes forgot to even write them down in my note book.

Then came the move to Leimen, a dismal inland location.

I have been here for two years now.
This translates to 2 spring and 2 fall migration periods.
I am not entirely sure, but I can only recall one or maybe two wheatears.
Not for each migration period, no.
In total.

This strikes me as sad.

However, I do get to see a species of passerine that will regularly roost and hop around on ploughed fields and ... you know ... semi-arid upland habitat, thus stepping in to fill the gap left by the lack of wheatears.

This is the Black Redstart, a species I have come to love dearly for its graciousness, and have therefore dubbed "Wheatear methadone".

Here are a few pictures from last weekend.

Vast expanses of semi-arid upland habitat (red arrow in case you missed it)

Female demonstrating cunning habitat use

Female surveying vastness of habitat on the wing
Male searching nearby prime rocky outcrop habitat for arthropods

The cast in alphabetical order

Black Redstart - Phoenicurus ochruros - Hausrotschwanz [House Redtail]
Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe - Steinschmätzer [Stone chatterer ... sort of]


John B. said...

I suppose Wheatear methadone is better than no Wheatear and no methadone.

Hilke Breder said...

Thanks for listing the cast. I actually have some nice pics of a Black Redstart taken at my cousins farm in Schleswig Holstein last year, but have no place to post them; they don't fit into my blog or my website :-( It's the first time I had ever seen this bird. I have never seen a Wheatear! Will watch out for it on my next trip.

Jochen said...

@John: yes, unless you can just go outside and look at a wood-warbler. That beats wheatears, methadone and black redstarts as well. Most of the time.

@Hilke: oh, you could blog them on your blog? After all, it's your blog, you can post whatever you want, and I am sure people would be interested?
Wheatears only breed very rarely in Germany nowadays, your best chances will likely be in the dune areas along the North Sea coast (particularly the islands). If you are in Germany in late March/April, you need to scan ploughed fields or fields from last year that were harvested but not ploughed yet. It will take some efforts though unless they fly, when their white tail pattern makes them very easy to spot.