I went looking for Whinchat and Redstart but came home with Wheatear. I’m talking about birds, of course, and I didn’t actually bring the bird home, of course, just photos – and not particularly crisp photos at that, as the bird was perched on a fence post some distance away and I couldn’t get closer without spooking it. But what a lovely little bird it was!
This was at Cosmeston, my local country park and nature reserve, which, as it sits very close to the Welsh coast adjacent to the Bristol Channel, is perfectly situated as a sort of springboard location for migrating birds – and the autumn bird migration is well and truly underway now. The Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) breeds in upland areas of northern and western Britain but then, come the cooler days of late summer – early autumn, it wings its way south to spend the winter in central Africa.
The name Wheatear intrigued me so I consulted my trusty copy of Stefan Buczacki’s Fauna Britannica. It appears that many people assume, as I did, that the name comes from the bird’s tendency to consume ripening wheat. However, the etymology is older and seems to come from a Middle English word meaning ‘white arse’!