Real Red-bellied boy and other bits:

Having ‘blogged’ about red-bellieds… no way!

Look what was in Spain 3 days ago:

Eastern Black Redstart in Spain. A stunning record from 3 days ago. We need one for Britain but I was thinking October/November not March!

Crossbills in North America/ Europe and call variation– comment added here:

Ross’s Goose- maybe the escape isn’t even pure? Have a look at this photos from Norfolk of presumed escape Ross’s Goose presently with Barnacle Geese. Johnny Mac rang to say he noticed the outer secondaries have blackish markings (on inner webs it seems).  Normally adult Ross’s Geese have all white secondaries?… See Andy Thompson’s’ in flight shot…off=293461&v=0

This apparent Ross’s Goose/ Barnacle Goose hybrid is obvious. Perhaps other ‘escaped’ Ross’ Geese actually show a mixed gene pool on closer inspection. Cleethorpes, Lincs., February 2007

David Sibley on taxa/ subspecies which are identifiable in the field:

Greenland Redpoll in Cambridge

and if you haven’t seen it, Steve Blain brought attention to this fab record of a far-inland Greenland Redpoll. How many are we missing?

6 thoughts on “Real Red-bellied boy and other bits:

  1. Dave Appleton

    Hi Martin,

    A comment in response to the suggestion that the Ross’s Goose with dark secondaries might not be pure. Several of the Ross’s Geese (or perhaps just a couple of returning birds) that have turned up with Pink-feet in Norfolk over the years have had some dark secondaries. Usually this is just 1-3 outer secondaries in each wing, often asymmetrically. An example among my photos here:

    There are actually a few photos online of Ross’s Geese in North America that show some dark in the secondaries too, so I don’t think it necessarily indicates impurity. Take a look at this flock for example:

    Quite a bit of variation there, with some showing a few dark outer secondaries and others showing dark centres to all or most of their secondaries. Note also some variation in the primary coverts in terms of how white/dusky they are (dusky on the Cley bird too).

    I’ve often wondered if this is a feature of second-winters or whether dark secondaries can be retained throughout adulthood. I suspect that at least one of the Norfolk birds with dark secondaries is a returning bird and therefore that it isn’t necessarily a sign of immaturity, but I can’t be 100% sure. I do wonder if those with the most extensive dark on the secondaries and primary coverts are likely to be second winter whereas ones with just 1-3 dark secondaries could perhaps be older. Will be interesting if the Cley bird sticks around to see if it changes.

    Was discussing this by email with Tom Lowe a while back – he tells me that Peter Pyle’s ID guide mentions dark secondaries, suggesting that it might indicate second-winter, but there is evidence to suggest that it also occurs in older birds (this for both Ross’s and Snow Geese, apparently).

    Dave Appleton

  2. Martin Garner


    thanks for the very cool reply- sorry I have been slow on something you have already explored considerably- I’d be interested to know if you progress the aging of older immatures any further


  3. Mark Golley

    Hi Martin

    Following on from Dave Appleton’s comments really – yes, as Dave says, there has been the occasional (presumed vagrant?) Ross’s Goose that has appeared here in Norfolk over the years which have shown dark marks in their outer secondaries.

    There have been two birds (excluding the presumed feral bird here at Cley, more on that in a mo!) roaming the county again this winter, (one rather petite, one rather more beefy) and one of these shows the marks that you and Dave have touched upon.

    The bird in question shows an asymmetrical pattern (with two marks on the left wing and three on the right) and both this winter’s returning vagrant individuals are portrayed nicely here (scroll down past the Northern Harrier):-

    Regular Norfolk goosewatchers have been seeing the bird in question for at least three years (possibly more?) – could it even be the same bird that Dave linked to (maybe it was a second-winter then?)

    The assumed feral group of the Ross’ Goose, Barnacle Geese and hybrid (I’m in the Ross’s X Barnacle camp) appeared at Salthouse sometime in the middle of December but prior to that, on December 5th, I saw two identical-in-appearance hybrid youngsters fly east, and then back west, along the beach at Cley, and found them again, later the same day out on Blakeney Freshes, with around 400 Pink-footed Geese. The two youngsters were very “tight”, always together and calling loudly to stay in contact (sounding like off-key, wonky Barnacles), so it was fascinating to see a hybrid youngster, matching their look, appear a few days later.

    Was this individual one of the two? Or were the two hybrids fore-runners of the group that came later? If the former, how come the siblings split up, with one finding the Ross’s/Barnacle flock and the other left to drift alone……?!?

    Confusingly, the feral flock (which attracted at least three “new” single Barnacles during the second winter period before dropping back to five Barnies, the Ross’s and the hybrid) frequently fed with some of the increasingly sizeable flocks of Pink-feet that have been appearing in the Cley 10km square this winter. However, they were always together (albeit loosely on occasion) and I’ve not seen the Ross’s split from the Barnacles and venture off with the Pinks on its own.

    However, a vagrant Ross’s Goose did appear on Blakeney Freshes on December 22nd -flying in from the west with c.500 Pinks, roosting there for much of the day before departing west again later that day. I think there may be one or two other “fly-through” records locally this winter too, as the Pinks move from east to west Norfolk or vice versa.

    All the best,
    Mark Golley

  4. Dave Appleton

    I wonder if the two hybrids you (Mark) saw on Blakeney Freshes were the same birds that I photographed in the Blakeney Collection in February (and were still there recently)? I had assumed they were part of the collection but the owner insists they are nothing to do with him and just appeared there. If they are the same then the Cley bird is definitely a different individual. There have also been similar hybrids (with feral Ross’s & Barnacles) in the Wash area – the two I’ve seen there are different individuals but possible that others originate from the same flock I suppose. Photos of all of these here:


    1. Mark Golley

      Just had a look at the link Dave – to my surprise, they aren’t the two hybrids we’ve discussed. The December 5th birds were much closer in appearance to the “current” bird, both on the ground and, in particular, in flight.

      So, where did the Blakeney birds pop up from?

      The Ross’s/Barnacle family group seems to have left the NWT reserve again, I’ve not seen them for three or four days now. Perhaps they’ve moved back to Bayfield.


      1. Mark Golley

        As a potential grand finale to the subject of the Ross’s Goose, the hybrid and the small party of Barnacle Geese, they did indeed leave Norfolk, spending 27th-28th March at Dowlaw in Borders (picking up some extra Barnies along the way – just as they did here).

        Last date here at Cley was 21st March (I think), when I saw them, in the early evening, in the Eye Field.


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