As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Desert wheatear spotted in Scotland

A desert wheatear has appeared in Aberdeenshire - The bird must be severely regretting his navigational lapse.

A rare avian species to the UK is spotted beside RSPB nature reserve

December 2012. Staff at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg had an exciting visitor arrive on Sunday 2nd December. The desert wheatear, an old world flycatcher, is believed to have become lost travelling to the Sahara desert and found itself in Aberdeenshire.

The misguided bird will now have to survive chilly conditions and set off once the weather improves for a warmer climate.

"We've been excited to see a rarity here at Loch of Strathbeg - a desert wheatear spotted at Rattray," said Diana Spencer, RSPB Visitor officer at Loch of Strathbeg.

"It should be in the Sahara by now so it's probably a bit stunned by being on a beach in Aberdeenshire in freezing temperatures! It was first spotted by two of our volunteers who were unsure what it was - but they brought in photos, which we then posted on Twitter. Within less than a minute we had two people identify the bird as a desert wheatear which was excellent."

The desert wheatear
The desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti), thought to be a female, or less likely a juvenile, is the same size as a robin with distinctive all black upper tail feathers. Males are buff in colour with white underparts and females have a greyer colour with buffer appearance below.

The chances of survival for the bird are said to be fairly good, according to Ian Francis, RSPB area manager for the North East. "There's every chance this lost bird will survive," said Ian. "It needs to ideally get itself back to the Eastern Mediterranean but there's no way of knowing how well this bird may fare unless it was ringed and spotted elsewhere.

"There are lots of theories on why some birds lose the correct course; some suggest weather or loss of navigational ability. In truth, we do not really know and just have to hope that this bird ends up where it should be - or at least in warmer climes than Aberdeenshire."

RSPB Loch of Strathbeg is just off the A90 between Fraserburgh and Peterhead. Follow the ‘Nature Reserve' signs from Crimond village.

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