One Wheatear doesn't make a summer...however, it is the first sign that the arrival of long-distance summer visitors is upon us.
On 18 February, we received a report of a Wheatear in Derbyshire and, although it is early it is not unprecedented. Wheatears spend the winter months south of the Sahara, from Mauritania and Sierra Leone to the Indian Ocean. Apart from a few birds in Iraq, and the odd straggler in the United States, the entire world population winters in Africa. Of course we don’t know where Tuesday’s Wheatear spent the winter months, and maybe it didn’t cross the Sahara, but it could have. Wheatears begin to leave their winter quarters in early January, and by mid February passage is well underway in North Africa. So, if the Derbyshire bird began its migration in Early January it could complete the 4,500km (3,000 miles) journey in the six week period.
Wheatear by Amy Lewis
From Saturday in to Sunday, high pressure is forecast to build over southern Europe, in fact high pressure and very light winds are forecast to stretch all the way from North Africa to Central France, so, there is a small chance that one or two more Wheatears might make it back to the UK over the weekend, although the south-westerly winds in the English Channel might just prevent any Wheatear that has made it that far north from making the crossing.
Met Office pressure chart for Sunday 23 February 2014