I’ve never been able to get close to Wheatears before. They are very wary birds. There are a few families along the Westside in Westray, so I decide to try meeting one of them on my walk.
Two miles in I stumble across a family, recently exploded from a nest, working the coast of Westray for insects. I watch them approach from a distance and decide to lie down, camera in hand, and wait for them. I’m lying very still, hoping they won’t be concerned by my presence. I’m wearing full camouflage, have my hood up, and moulded my body into the landscape.
They bounce, flit, mount grassy hillocks, call, and watch for predators as they approach. Then they are all around me. I can’t tell whether there are three freshly-fledged juveniles or four because there’s so much activity. One is too close to focus on. They seem to know I’m there but aren’t concerned. They are powerful birds with a wonderful presence.
Here’s one in a pose I love:
I’m getting scores of great photographs as they surround me. There seems to be plenty of food here, as they make their way south along the spongy wet cliff-tops. Then they’re off again, working the cliffs for food. Soon, they’ll be off on migration, over land and sea, thousands of miles south.
What a lovely experience.