What does it take to drop everything and drive an hour to see a bird? Apparently a Northern Wheatear was enough for me when I got the alert that there was one at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. I’ve seen Northern Wheatears in both Delaware and Pennsylvania, but its been quite a few years.
Anyways, as luck would have it, I got a text just as I was departing and met up with Russell Winter for the hour drive to the spot. We were in virtual radio silence during the drive up; it’s an area with few birders so no one was able to get up there quickly to send out updates. We were most of the way there when someone answered my plea for information with a “I’m here looking for it”….not a hopeful sign. It was several minutes later when I realized that the message was actually “I’m here looking at it”, a much better prognostication for our chances.
We were soon on site, and the wheatear was hopping around on the ground, acting like something between a robin and Palm Warbler as it flicked its tail and sprinted around the yard chasing insects. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a passerine stand still for as long as this wheatear did, if only it had been a bit closer I could have really gotten some amazing digiscoped footage. Nevertheless, my Phone Skope setup let me get some sweet footage. Ironically, soon after we left the wheatear came right up to the road and even perched on the utility pole right where our car was parked.