Tuesday 20 December 2022

Izzy Wheatear!

Well, having fully made up my mind not to twitch (by car), and having recently bemoaned the 'unpalatability' of the whole twitching business, what should turn up half an hour away? Only one of my 'most wanted' species - Isabelline Wheatear - Aaaggh! A brand new bird for me and one I've been sorely tempted to go and see (outside of Devon) in the past, but always talked myself out of. I'm glad I made the dash and I suppose 20 miles isn't going to cause me too many sleepless nights, but I still intend to curtail any such future madness.

Bathed in golden afternoon sun - it was everything I hoped it would be - a really lovely bird. Subtly quite distinctive but I guess I've stared hard enough at enough late autumn Northern Wheatears to find it so. The head pattern was particularly striking - a lovely black line to the eye, and strong bill. The broadly, sandy-fringed greater coverts were concolorous with the mantle and formed a 'shawl' - particularly noticeable from behind. I found the famous 'isolated dark alula' difficult to see as it was mostly obscured by fluffed-up flank feathers, but the buff-edged (as opposed to rusty-orange) secondaries were pleasingly evident.
Good to see some familiar faces this afternoon and a huge 'thank you' to Martin for letting me take some photographs through his scope, using his phone adaptor. In my haste I'd left my camera and bins at home, thinking they were in the boot of the car. Not a nice feeling, but at least I had my scope and notebook.


  1. Proper lovely bird, I manged to see it today with the 1yr old! Sometimes Daddy Day Care works out! I think twitching 20miles is perfectly acceptable in this case mate!

  2. Thanks Tom - doubly satisfying to combine a good bird with doing Dad stuff. Had Joel not been working I would have combined the trip with a driving lesson for him! I don't feel too bad as it's relatively close to home. I've been tempted by a couple in Wales over the years, and very tempted by the Cornish one a few years ago. If I don't see you, have a lovely Christmas. Let's hope Santa brings a few more good birds to Exmouth...

  3. Sorry I missed you, Matt. I noticed someone further along the boardwalk using a scope and working a notebook - must have been you! Yes, what a terrific bird, and another quality addition to the Axe list!

    1. Hi Gav- apologies - I didn't realise you were there, otherwise I'd have come and said hello. Yes, a great bird and one I felt I needed to familiarise myself with, in case one turns up on Orcombe. Envious of your Scilly find - fantastic! All the very best. Matt.

  4. Mate, as much as I admire your ethic and will power. I don't think 20 miles for a bird of such quality is anything to lose sleep about.

  5. Thanks Spencer. Am making an effort to cut carbon footprint further but am some way off where I want to be. Am going to find it difficult to resist birds like Isabelline Wheatear though. Have a good Christmas. All the best. Matt.

  6. Worth going for! I think this is one of the few I haven't seen yet in the UK but have seen a few overseas. Lovely shots.

    Quite a purple patch, what with the OBP too!

  7. Thanks Neil - definitely worth it. Have always wanted to see one. Yes - definitely a purple patch. Odd how December has been so much better than October in this neck of the woods. All the best. Matt.