Stejneger’s Stonechat in the Netherlands?

is it the same?

by Nils, Martin and Diederik Kok

Above: ‘Siberian Stonechat’, Texel, Netherlands, October 2012 by Diederik Kok. This bird appears very similar to or same as confirmed ‘Stejneger’s Stonechat’ at Portland Bill, UK seen the day after the Texel bird was last seen.

Stejneger’s Stonechat at Portland (left by Martin Cade) compared with Texel Stonechat on right by Diederik Kok.

We have been having a lively discussion on ‘Siberian Stonechats’, following this maurus type on Shetland and this variegatus on Vleiland. We were knocked out with the news that a bird at Portland Bill, Dorset in late October was a Stejneger’s Stonechat, taxon ‘stejnegeri’ (confirmed by DNA). A similarly dark ‘Siberian Stonechat’ on Texel, Netherlands earlier on October was quickly recalled. We then asked the question:

“Could this be the same bird?”

It seems to all our eyes the answer may well be YES!

The bird was found by Diederik who writes:

When I found this bird on Oct 8, I realized it had to be a Siberian Stonechat, albeit a relatively dark one. Especially its upperparts were darker than usual for typical maurus, rump was strong orange buff rather than pale buff and the lack of supercilium was also a bit strange. During its (long) stay till Oct 23 this ‘maurus’ was seen by many birders, especially during the Dutch Birding weekend. During this time, I followed the topic on the Shetland Siberian Stonechat on Birding Frontiers with interest – especially the question raised regarding the separation stejnegeri as I knew very little about how to identify this taxon. The news of the Portland stejnegeri and its DNA analysis is of course very interesting! And extra interesting because the Texel bird looks so similar to the Portland bird. What a striking resemblance, as also noted by Tom van der Have, Jan Hein van Steenis and others on the Dutch Birding website. Credits to Nils for the initial photo analysis showing that it looks to be the very same individual?…. It surely makes one wonder…

Stejneger’s Stonechat at Portland (left by Martin Cade) compared with Texel Stonechat on right by Ipe Weeber.

Regarding dates:

Texel bird: 8th -23rd October

After my first observation on Oct 8, it was last seen with certainty at Oct 23 at de Robbernjager, N Texel (and also photographed at that date): a surprisingly long stay! No reports for Oct 24.
Interestingly, on Oct 25 a ‘Siberian Stonechat’ was reported at a very nearby location (de Tuintjes, N Texel). For the Oct 25 observation the short description available might suggest another individual but no photos of this observation are available: so hard to tell whether the Robbenjager or another individual was involved.

Portland bird: 24th -26th October

Discovered Oct 24, present till Oct 26.
Lots more great photos of the Dutch bird can be found here, here and here and below:

Thanks especially  to Martin Cade and Jos van den Berg

6 thoughts on “Stejneger’s Stonechat in the Netherlands?

  1. Tom van der Have

    To add further to the similarity: the Portland Bill birds misses t1 left and the Texel bird as well. This can be seen in the flight picture: only one t1 (right) with narrow white margin is visible and t2 left with a broad white margin. Also the primary coverts pattern is very similar in both birds.

    Reply
    1. Diederik Kok

      Brian and Tom, thanks for your comments.
      The gap in the white primary tip of p8 on the left wing looks indeed identical!
      A photo showing the comparison of this detail for the Portland and Texel birds side-by-side can be found in this gallery on the Dutch Birding website. The same gallery also shows a picture of the Texel bird on its first day with a broken t1 on the left side – the same feather is lost in Portland.
      Diederik

      Reply
  2. Martin Garner

    This has been a fascinating process. I think there are still more ‘feather minutiae’ matches not yet itemised- as well as those mentioned here and on the Dutch Birding forum. All of which continues to reinforce this is clearly the same bird.

    Hoping/assuming the bird is deemed as an acceptable stejnegeri by the Dutch rarities commitee- will this constitute a ‘new kind of record’ – one in which the bird is fully confirmed by DNA but when it’s present in another country??

    As I think a certain MC of Aberdeen is credited with saying (something like): ‘Identifying birds by what you see is so 20th century’

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Stejneger’s Stonechat in Korea: A Quick Introduction with Images « Birds Korea Blog

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