Wednesday, 18 March 2020

And Still They Come...

March 2020 is theoretically my 61st opportunity to score an early spring Wheatear. Back in March 1960 (my first as an air-breathing creature) I was barely weaned, and not really in a position to enter the fray, but I'm sure there were still plenty of birders carefully scouring the West Dorset coast for their first Wheatear of the year. No doubt some are still active today. Perhaps one or two were out this afternoon, like me, as keen as ever for a glimpse of that handsome harbinger of spring.

I honestly could not tell you how many times I've eagerly anticipated my first Wheatear, but even allowing for the years of pre-birding, non-birding and phase, it is lots. I mention this for a reason. Because it is very easy to take such a simple little once-a-year ritual for granted, and yet many things I have taken for granted all my life are being turned on their head right now...

It is tempting to follow this line of thought down the dismal path it inevitably leads, but I'm not going to. I have just spent a weekend in the company of my granddaughter, who is slightly more than 60 years my junior, and such a rude reminder of my own mortality always makes me a bit introspective. However, I refuse to give in to it. What's the point? All that does is suck the joy from the frankly amazing spectacle of your first Wheatear of the year hitting the beach, and who wants to do that?

Just a Wheatear? Not really...

I finished work early today and went to East Bexington. It strikes me as a pretty Wheatear-friendly place, and it was a Wheatear I wanted. I know all about the other early spring possibilities, like Sand Martin, Swallow, White Wagtail and so on... but only Wheatears actually count. For me, none of the others really hits the spot. There is a magic little buzz about that first Wheatear which nothing else can produce...

13:46 on 18th March, 2020. First Wheatear photo of the year.

I ended up with a total of four birds; three together and a singleton. Very little else of note, but who cares? Naturally there were Stonechats, and as ever I could not resist pointing the camera at them, despite the gloomy, overcast weather...

The lone Wheatear was an absolutely pristine male, feeding at some distance in a field of sparse stubble...

Spring perfection.

So, while the world teeters on the edge of something quite unprecedented in all our lifetimes, NQS will continue to bring little nuggets of joyous, upbeat positivity.

While it still can...

Anyway, I'll close with this bunch of ruthlessly abused pixels, depicting two humans of approximately 60 years and two months difference in age. I like to think the older one still has a few first-Wheatears-of-the-year in him yet...


  1. Spot on. Birding is going to be the best hobby ever in the coming months.

    1. Thanks Jono. Agreed. Slightly better than Scrabble I would say.

  2. Many thanks for the upbeat positivity,
    long may it continue. It inspired me to go out and find my own Wheatears. Stay well and enjoy your granddaughter.

    1. And thank you for your nice comment! It's the small stuff that helps make the world a friendlier place...

  3. A thoughtful and beautifully written post, Gavin. There is something wonderful about the daily and seasonal rhythms of the natural world that continue regardless of events in the human sphere. I remember taking great solace in that after my parents died, and I will do so in the weeks and months ahead (helped by a regular dose of NQS, of course).


    1. Thanks Malcolm. I am forever grateful that for some reason I've been blessed with a measure of appreciation for the natural world. I don't know how people manage without...

  4. Hi Gav, not blog related! My phoned expired & Ive lost most contacts - could you text me your numbers? Discretion assured! Many thanks.