The other day I saw a Northern Wheatear in its apricot autumn colours heading rapidly southward, a sign of the autumn bird migration getting started. This sighting reminded me of a memorable brief session I had with this species earlier in the year, when the birds were heading northwards to their upland breeding areas, but had not got round to going through the images. We get quite good numbers of the birds moving along the coastal strip of the Wirral during migration. I have generally found the spring birds to be much less approachable for photography. They always seem to try and keep at distance that is just out of photography range and always move a short distance ahead of any approaching person with a flash of their white rump, from where they derive their name.
A spring male bird is a joy to behold and certainly brightens up the mid-March landscape, when they first arrive locally and during their long journey up from Africa. This particular bird shown here I came across whilst out looking for Skylarks during May. I spotted the bird, looking resplendent in its fresh plumage, sitting on a fence post and was surprised in that it allowed a close approach.
The bird then dropped to the ground in a dip in the sandy grasslands, that border the coast, and I could suddenly see a good potential opportunity. After watching the foraging bird for a few moments, I predicted the path it was going to take and went round to the far side of the depression and lay down and waited at the top of the bank just out of view of the bird. The secret to the closest wildlife encounters is often to predict the path of the animal or bird based on your knowledge of its behaviour and hope it keeps wandering in the direction of your position. Obviously luck plays it part with this approach and some say I always seem to have it on my side but maybe it happens a little to often for it just to be by chance alone.
After a short wait a head appeared over the crest of the bank directly in front of me.
The bird paused for a while decided I posed no threat and slowly came up on to the top of the bank where I was lying.
This beautiful male Wheatear then stayed in close proximity for a while allowing me to take quite a few photographs. At times it came very close and inside minimum focusing distance on the lens and I had to wait motionless for it hop back out to a suitable range. It obviously knew I was there but seemed unperturbed by my presence.
The session came to an abrupt end when a dog walker, seeing me lying on the ground, walked right up to me to ask what I was photographing. I pointed to the Wheatear flying off in to the distance.