Sunday, 27 September 2009

Bockhill Desert

Wheatears are still trickling through on their migration south. The genus Oenanthe consists of about 26 species of wheatear, of which the Northern is the most widespread and the only breeder in Western Europe. It is a predominately Middle-eastern group with one species found as far south as South Africa. Quite a few have reached the British Isles as vagrants, like the Desert Wheatear at the Royal Cinque Ports Golf Course last November. So each Wheatear gets looked at closely in case it one of the rarities.

As they are essentially a group that live in dry places, like the Stony deserts and wadis of Arabia they look quite at home in the increasingly barren and parched fields of Bockhill. It's about eight weeks since we had any substantial rain and the fields are extremely dusty.

Needless to say we didn't find a rare wheatear today, although there was an Isabelline Wheatear in Essex today.(The colour described as "isabelline" is a buffy yellow and probably comes from Isabella I of Castile, who was trapped in the eight-month siege of Granada by Ferdinand II of Aragon (1452–1516). This siege ended in January 1492 and resulted in over-worn and discoloured underwear belonging to Isabella"). They are similar to Northern Wheatears and care is need to ensure one isn't overlooked.

There's no shortage of water in my pond, although there is a distinct shortage of House Sparrows in some areas. Even the flock in our garden is much smaller that it was 9 years ago when we arrived. I still put out food for them and there are loots of suitable nest-boxes available so I'm not sure what has caused the decline.
The decline is most pronounced in large cities and in London there are none at all in the central area.

Blue Tits are doing well and as I liked this picture of one that shared the Sparrows bath water I thought I put it in, not that I don't think the cock Sparrow is very handsome!

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