Northern Wheatear


I’ve been reading on the Texas birdlist about the daily sightings of the Northern Wheatear in Beeville, Texas. This caught my eye because as I noted in a past posting, we have ties to Beeville.

This bird, a resident of the far north, should be wintering in Africa with the rest of its buddies. How it arrived at John’s (an Amish farmer) field is Texas is anyone’s guess but fortunately, he’s an amateur birder and identified it — and soon experts from all over were coming and verifying it. It’s been seen about every day right out behind his house.

We were planning to go right by the site on our way to Goliad State Park so I decided to take the six mile detour and see if I could spot it — figuring it’s definitely the only chance I’ll ever have.

We parked the truck and Airstream by the road and I walked in the ramshackle farm operation. A young birder from Central Texas was there and as I signed the book, I saw addresses from all over the country. He had a big telephoto but had not yet seen the bird.

We watched dozens of meadowlarks (eastern or western — not sure) and other birds and I was getting discouraged — the breeze was stiff and Mary and Penny were waiting.

Then I saw an Amish buggy coming down the road toward the truck and thought, “Oh no, Penny!” It was too far to run to the truck to warn Mary and I didn’t have my iPhone and soon I heard Penny go ballistic, saw the horse shy away from the truck, and thought, “Oh great, what a nice introduction.” The buggy turned in the lane and soon I was apologizing but John and the two women he was training to drive, were fine.

Just then, the guy with the camera said, “Did you see it?” And of course, I hadn’t. The bird had popped up on a tank – he’d snapped one shot — and off it went into the weeds. About five or ten minutes went by and I was getting bummed when up it came, perching about 10 feet from me on an old tank. I got a wonderful view with the binoculars as the guy shot dozens of shots. The bird sort of posed, moving around the tank, giving us side views, front views, until it got sick of it and moved off. We were psyched.

As you can see, the bird is not spectactular except in its rarity. It was a great experience for an amateur birder. So with the Roadside hawk, the Jacana, the groove-billed Ana, and the Wheatear, I’ve added some pretty rare birds to my list. The total list, modest at the start, has grown by over 100 birds this trip.

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photo by seabarium

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