Long Distance Traveler


This week’s photo, taken October 20, 2014 at Point Robinson Park on Vashon Island, WA, features a NORTHERN WHEATEAR, a remarkable little bird known for one of the longest migrations in the world.

On Monday, I traveled two hours by car and ferry to Vashon Island to see a rare bird that was discovered there two days earlier. I began to feel some stress that morning, due to the commute traffic I encountered around Seattle, the ferry I missed by a few minutes, and the 25-minute wait I had to endure for the next one. But I stopped feeling sorry for myself after I learned about the annual journey of the species that I photographed that day on a driftwood-strewn beach – the NORTHERN WHEATEAR.

Northern Wheatears are Arctic breeders. In North America, Wheatears that breed in Alaska and the northwest corner of Canada will migrate west in the fall, through Asia and eventually to sub-Sahara Africa for the winter, a one-way distance of about 9000 miles. Meanwhile, Northern Wheatears that breed in the northeast region of Canada “only” need to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, before continuing south to their African wintering grounds.

This Northern Wheatear, the third one ever reported in Washington state, probably won’t be spending the winter in Africa. Wherever it ends up, I wish it a relaxing few months filled with regular flight muscle massages, an endless supply of insects, and a safe return next spring to the northern reaches of North America.

Greeting cards for the holidays: http://joe-sweeney.fineartamerica.com


About Joe Sweeney

I photograph birds to share the beauty and wonder I find in nature.
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2 Responses to Long Distance Traveler

  1. Marlene Prendergast says:

    Thanks Joe, as always. I have quite a collection of your bird photos now! Marlene Prendergast >

  2. ninadoggett@comcast.net says:

    Joe: I am at the Ranch after 3 &1/2 years and wish you were here. The new naturalist Rob is very knowledgeable so despite the effects of the drought, we saw some birds on Wed. am’s bird walk. I’m going out tomorrow at 8- but I did manage to spot a Summer Tanager, 2 Swainson’s Thrushes, a California Thasher & Roadrunner on my terrace. About the Tanager, we didn’t get great looks but I thought there was more black in the wings than there should be- I’m assuming it could not have been a Scarlet Tanager, right? Please advise. Cheers! Nina

    Sent from my iPhone


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