Monthly Archives: August 2011

Your one stop reference guide – fully updated & extended!

Are you looking for a particular reference for a particular group of species?

Well here is your fully updated and extended one stop shop for references of many things avian!

All the reference lists Fully updated AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2011.

Storm-petrel © Martin Garner

The latest of Joe Hobbs fantastic reference lists is Storm-petrels; you can download this >>HERE<<

Black-headed Wagtail © Tristan Reid

The second reference list in the series is wagtails; this can be downloaded >>HERE<<

Audouin's Gull © Tristan Reid

The next of the selection is of course everyones favourite; Gulls! You can download the latest version of Joe Hobbs laridae reference list by clicking >>HERE<<

Soft-plumaged Petrel © Graham Catley

For Joe Hobbs recently updated pterodroma reference list please click >>HERE<<

Sooty Shearwater © Paul Walbridge

For Joe Hobbs new shearwater reference list please click >>HERE<<

Iberian Chiffchaff © Tristan Reid

‘Leaf Warblers’ are the subject of Joe Hobbs’ next excellent reference lists. phylloscopus warblers can be downloaded >>HERE<<

Rüppell’s Warbler © Tristan Reid

You can download the sylvia warbler reference list >>HERE<<

Blyth's Reed Warbler © Martin Garner

The next of Joe Hobbs fantastic set of reference lists is acrocephalus warblers; you can download it >>HERE<<

Upcher's Warbler © Tristan Reid

The next in the warbler line up are the hippolais warblers; this can be downloaded >>HERE<<

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler © Brydon Thomason

The last reference list is locustella warblers; this can be downloaded >>HERE<<

We hope you find these references lists useful. This is a fantastic resource put together by Joe Hobbs and we thanks him for allowing us to make them available at Birding Frontiers!

News from Spurn Island

Long-tailed Skua, Sabine’s Gull and a breach

NW winds brought great seabirds past Spurn and especially past my caravan. Background has included Sooty and Manx Shearwaters each morning and evening, lots more Arctic Skuas, many terns including several Blacks and a few Great Skuas. Top spot goes to a juvenile Long-tailed Skua which flew close inshore off the Garner caravan 2 night ago. The last night (29th August) an adult Sabine’s Gull flew south. Fantastic! Overnight also though, the road south of the warren was breached by the high swells and high tide. It took out a chunk of sand dune and ripped up the road. Check it out, photo from this morning (30.8.11):

News items from me:

New dates for guide birding at Spurn. Half day tasters. Come for the morning , get the gen and stay for the rest of the day. A great start to your autumns birding.

Saturday 10th September 8am to 12 noon (2 places left)

Sunday 11th September 8 am to 12 noon (4 places left)

£25 per person. More info here

This coming Sunday 4th September I will be calling out the seabirds Skua and Shearwater cruise on the Yorkshire Bell. More here. Last time I did it a few years ago we got juvenile Long-tailed Skua, Blue Fulmar and several Sooty Shearwaters. Who knows…


Shetland is coming up at the end of September . Still some places available on Taiga Flycatcher week! I met one of our clients from last year at the Birdfair and as soon as we meet he was reminded how much fun we had a booked again. Go on- take the plunge!

and don’t forget the Memory Sticks (see above) Now available by post.

more from Spurn ‘island’ this morning l

First winter Citrine Wagtail

you decide…

Have fun with this scenario. Pete Kinsella, one of the faithful birders at Seaforth, Liverpool, emailed a couple of days ago with a pic of a flava type wagtail. It had a raspy call and I agreed with Pete: looks like a “Citrine Wagtail with weak wing bars” was my first reaction. I encouraged him to try to record the call as well.  Some esp. 1st winter Black-headed Wagtails (feldegg) can have pale ear covert surrounds (as here)- but they don’t really look like his bird (which has very Citrine-like head). He went back the next day (yesterday) to try to see it and found a much easier 1st winter Citrine. That’s’ kind of why birding is so much fun. you just never know…

Here’s his pucka ‘easy’ 1st winter Citrine Wagtail (28.8.11):

and below- bird one (26.8.11.). What do you think? Looks most like a Citrine Wagtail to me, but the wing bars are so weak (and there is the interesting bird from the Netherlands in the blog post below). Another example in which I think recording the call can provide very valuable extra data.

Here’s Pete’s story:

A tale of two Wagtails

“For a few days prior to 26th August 2011 there had been a good passage of Wagtails through Seaforth NR, Merseyside. Perhaps as many as 50 Yellow Wagtails, unusual in recent years, had been seen along with many Pieds and a few White Wagtails. The presence of the White Wags made me think that some of the “Yellows” might be continental birds and I made every effort to check as many as possible for any “goodies”.

On the evening of the 26th I located a Flava-type Wagtail in flight calling, the thing was it sounded like a Citrine! Thankfully the bird dropped down just in front of me and initially I thought my ID was correct as it had a clear pale surround to it ear-coverts and white undertail coverts. However its wing-bars were too thin and weak looking for Citrine although it did have a broadly white edged inner tertial which ticked a Citrine box. I was in a quandary however , but managed to get one reasonable record shot before the bird flew off.

It was seen again the next day by another Seaforth regular who was also impressed by the head pattern but not the wing bars.

On the morning of the 28th August I again found the bird in its original location but soon lost it. I did however hear it call and confirmed my initial thoughts that it did sound like a Citrine. A few other regulars came down and just before lunchtime Gav Thomas heard a Citrine call amongst a number of Wagtails on a newly rain flooded area of the reserve. Amazingly when we saw it on the ground it was a different bird, a pristine 1st winter Citrine!

It was a textbook bird showing the broad white wing-bars and tertial fringes and the obligatory pale ear-covert surround. Interestingly though this latter feature wasn`t as pronounced as on the other bird, although still stood out. After a bit of a run around , the bird settled on the scrape alongside the main hide and was watched and well photographed during the afternoon.

Could the first bird have been a hybrid Citrine x Flava or a poorly marked Citrine or an “Eastern” type Yellow Wagtail? Surely the call must show that it has some Citrine type genes in it, as does the head pattern, but I still can`t resolve the thin wing-bars .The last few days however have been a superb learning curve, proving the value of checking through migrant Wagtail flocks.”

Pete Kinsella, Crosby, Liverpool.

and 2 more photos of the ‘easy bird’: All photos © Pete Kinsella

Eastern Yellow and Citrine Wagtails

The Vlieland Bird: 20 September 2009

Found on Vlieland, Netherlands, 2 years ago this bird caused some lively discussion and a little controversy. As the possibility of some autumn Eastern flavas draws near, I think it’s an important record as it contributes to our ongoing learning about Eastern Yellow Wagtail. I would love to find /see an Eastern flava on Shetland this Sept/Oct! I corresponded with Nil van Duivendijk (buy his book!) about the Vlieland bird last year and he presented the issues raised at the mid winter ‘Dutch Birding Day’. This is all Nils’ excellent work:

The problem is that bird’s plumage gives rise to a hybrid theory, or at least the combined elements of plumage are not known from any ‘Yellow Wagtail type’ as far as we know. The call was really identical to several recordings of the eastern group. For a fascinating in-depth analyse of the call by Dick Groenendijk , see here. (don’t forget to hit the translate button if you don’t know any Dutch!). The sonagrams are to my eyes, the same familiar shape I encountered beginning with a bird at Spurn in August 2010 and including the Devon bird which looks like it will pass muster as the first official British record.

First off, check out this video of the Vlieland bird:

I wonder what I would have though if I had found it!

all photos below of ‘Vlieland motacilla, 20 september 2009 © Bas van den Boogaard with thanks

The picture below, with annotations, was used in a presentation by Nils  on a Dutch Birding Day, showing the pro Yellow Wagtail (pro gele spec- white arrows) and pro Citrine Wagtail (pro Citroenkwikstaart- black arrows) features. 

Have a look for yourself. See what you think.

Parrot Crossbill

Here’s the answer

Besides a guess for Two-barred Crossbill, some guessed the mystery undertail coverts belonged to congener, the Pine Grosbeak. No, it’s a crossbill sp. No worries if you got it wrong- best way to learn!  Photographed in the Scottish Highlands and I agree with the photographer, it looks like a male Parrot Crossbill. I’ve not seen one in Britain since the early 1980’s. Do you remember the breeding pair at Wells Wood, Norfolk and the little warden’s caravan?

I often think one might be easily overlooked in a flock of Crossbills as I am very rusty. I would want to get sound recording, though I hope if I found a male that looked like this in the Sheffield area I would be pretty pleased! Hopefully sooner than later…

Male Parrot Crossbill, Highland, Scotland, June 2011 All photos © David Darrell-Lambert (

Juvenile Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls

August Features

That’s not august features (inspiring awe, admiration; majestic etc) but features you see in the months of August….Never mind! Seems like juvenile Caspian Gull is getting within my reach. Dean Nicholson photographed one on Lincoln Tip on 18th August. Perhaps the young do something similar to Mediterranean Gulls which can spread far north and west of their breeding ground in August (e.g. I have seen ringed Med Gulls which have bred in continental Europe quickly reach the the west coast of Ireland). Juvenile Caspians are a bit trickier and less familiar than 1st winters. I wonder if some are overlooked.

Meanwhile Dominic Mitchell sent some great photos of juvenile/ 1st winter Yellow-legged Gulls taken 2 days earlier at Rainham on 16th August. They make a helpful comparison:

juvenile- 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull, Rainham, London. 16th August 2011.  © Dominic Mitchell (also visit Dom’s blog here). Can you see the new pale centred scapular feathers (at the top of the ‘back’)? Compare with the fully juvenile bird below. These are a good ‘indicator’ of michahellis up to the end of August. See more here .

Bit trickier as there is less to go on being in virtually full juvenile plumage, but I agree with Dominic’s conclusion that this looks like a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull (I think there might be one first winter scapular emerging). If I was watching it myself in the field I would like to see the upper and underwing and tail patterns as well as a nice profile view like this. Rainham, London. 16th August 2011.  © Dominic Mitchell (

and the one I am looking for: juvenile Caspian Gull, Lincoln Tip, Lincolnshire. © Dean Nicholson 18th August 2011. Described by Dean as an obviously large bird. Please send it past my caravan!

Here is Dean’s description of the bird:

“Juvenile Caspian Gull – N Hykeham – 18/8/11

Due to this birds large size and my unfamiliarity of Juvenile Casps (this the first juv i’ve ever seen) I originally passed this off as an ‘odd looking’ GBB as it swam around Millenium Green amongst c80 LBB and GBB Gulls, no sooner had i worked out what it really was it did it fly over my head (showing me its white underwing as it went!) and on to some waste ground out of sight, i edged up the bank and peeped over and was confronted by c700 loafing large gulls, i set up my scope and eventually managed to relocate the bird and get these record shots.
Size and proportions.
A very large gull as can be appreciated in the photo’s, being quite a bit larger than the nearby LBB’s-closer to GBB in size but with totally different proportions, the tallness of the bird due to it’s long legs might actually have enhanced the size somewhat. Given the size i would have said this was a male bird?
Despite its large size the bird still showed typical Caspian Gull shape and proportions, this was far more apparent when standing on the ‘waste land’ than it was when the bird was on the water –  the legs were very long showing much visible tibia and were a washed out pale pink colour. For the most part it stood upright and aloof with it’s neck stretched up and its long primaries nearly touching the ground, it had a long thin neck and a strangely small head for a bird of its size (something i’ve noticed on many Caspian Gulls in the past), the head shape was typically small and pear shaped and the small dark eye was located high up and forward in the head, the bill was at the thicker end of the scale for  Casp but this is explained away by it being a large (male?) bird, the bill was still well within range of a Casp. The bill was very long when seen side on and lacked a marked gonydeal angle, the tip of the bill came to a weak tapered end, lacking a sharp bluntly hooked tip of a Y-L Gull. Another pro-Casp feature which was seen well in the pics was the hanging rear belly behind the legs, also the high held deep breast as if the bird was holding its breath.  
In flight it looked typically front heavy with a long head/neck projection.
The overall tone of the upperparts was a muddy brown colour with neat white tips to the feathers, the head and the majority of the underparts were whitish, there was some heavier brown streaking around the hindneck and the lower neck sides which contrasted with the white head. There was just a suggestion of some shading around the eye but not as prominant as shown on juv Y-L Gull.
The outer G Covs were all dark (forming a dark panel on the closed wing), neatly edged white and with slightly thicker white tips, the inner G Covs were very finely patterned with some interspersed internal markings but lacking clear-cut heavy notching. The Tertials were blackish (darker than rest of upperparts) with white tips. The bird was seen to have moulted (at least) a single 2nd generation (1W) upper scapular which was plain grey with a dark anchor marking and a dark shaft line. This early moult sequence is also a good pointer for Casp.
In flight the underwing/axillaries was very pale, almost clean white and contrasted quite markedly with the brown streaked flanks. There was a faint pale window on the inner primaries of the upperwing which also showed distinctinct black secondaries contrasting with an obvious white-ish wing bar formed by pale tips to G Covs. It had quite a contrasting and distinctive upperwing pattern. The tail/uppertail covs was white with very little streaking and contrasted with a well defined black tail bar.      
The bill was black with the basal half just turning slightly greyer.”

and finally an easier one from Dominic: an adult Yellow-legged Gull in moult, 16th August 2011 at Rainham: