First view of the bird suggested Black-eared Wheatear
I was passing Cley NWT this afternoon and decided to take a look for the Shore Lark, which had been reported earlier, along the shingle ridge behind Sea Pool. As I walked down Iron Road towards the sea I could see several birders looking intently over the shingle, between the pool and the ridge, although by the time I’d reach the end of the track they’d dispersed. I got to the spot and scanned around but there was no sign of any Shore Lark or anything else for that matter. Oh well, I walked along the ridge, somewhat aimlessly, towards Arnold’s, when I noticed a small passerine on the edge of the shingle. I took a look with my bins and was amazed to see a sandy coloured Wheatear with pronounced black face pattern – not unlike a Black-eared Wheatear, melanoleuca! As quickly as it appeared it dipped down below the ridge and was lost to view. I didn’t manage to see the tail pattern. As the bird failed to re-appear and with no field guide to hand I quickly texted a local birder for back-up. I continued to search for the bird whilst another birder approached. I told him there was an unusual Wheatear nearby, which I suspected could be a Black-eared. He had a copy of Collins with him, which helpfully refreshed my memory of the salient id features, and fortunately, before long, the bird re-appeared. At which point the tail was more visible and other features apparent that suggested not BEW but a stonking adult male Desert! Mark and Steve arrived shortly after and confirmed the id. What a bird – but I didn’t get to see the Shore Lark!
Later it revealed it’s true identity – Desert Wheatear, adult male in near summer plumage