Sunday, 14 April 2013

London, 24 years ago today ...

This superb male Desert Wheatear in London back in April 1989 was one of the first rarities I got really close to with a camera - or rather, it got close to me, flying directly towards me and landing too close for the camera to focus.
While a big arrival of Northern Wheatears is taking place in London at the moment, it's worth remembering that it was this time 24 years ago that the capital's first-ever Desert Wheatear turned up. A male, it was found in Barnes at what was then Barn Elms Reservoirs - now the London Wetlands Centre WWT - by Ben Aris on Thursday 13 April 1989 and remained until the following day. Like so many major rarities, however, it departed before the weekend crowds. I got there on the morning of the second day and was delighted to see the bird really well, coming away with a good series of close-up shots. Here's a couple of images, scanned from the original colour prints.

Although Desert Wheatears breed in north-west Africa, it is believed that the vagrants that reach western Europe actually originate from Central Asia.

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