Monthly Archives: March 2013

Gullfest ll. A Full Program!

Later this week…

To see full program just scroll down

Stellers Eider Kiberg feb2013_86

…I will be speaking in the iconic ‘North Pole Pub’ in Vardo, Varanger, Arctic Norway (what a cool address don’t you think?). My love with the Arctic is undiminished though I am nervous about leaving the new ‘patch’ at Flamborough. What might Mrs G. see in the garden?!

Monday 18th I fly to Oslo and meet up with ol’ pal Ian Lewington. Overnight in Oslo, arriving to the Taiga wilderness on Tuesday lunchtime. The Taiga forest dogsled ride will again take place followed on Thursday with the sail across the mouth of the might Varanger fjord: destination Gullfest.

Tormod and Elin have laid out a feast for visiting birders. I’m ready. Bring it on GULLFEST ll.

(I pinched some of Tormod’s and Alonza’s magical photos. You should really go HERE to see and read more of the full story)



gulls at gullfest apr 2012 Amundsen Biotope



The Program and the Talks



Bizarre Photo Opportunity


Gull, Tyre and Gargoyle combo 

On an inaccessible limestone stack.

Yep, sometimes it’s just bizarre. Out walking the north cliffs of Flamborough the other day, I picked up this ringed adult Herring Gull. Off the top of my head I think such orange rings come from birds trapped in the Scarborough area. Being a little distant I though it a good digiscoping opportunity. How well could the ring be read and photographed?

No problem even at considerable distance. However seemingly more incredible was how did a tyre and devilish gargoyle make it up this inaccessible stack? Did someone really climb it?

I have since found out how they got there…

d stackHere’s the stack in the middle of a pretty tumultuous sea scape at Breil Nook, Flamborough. It’s possible to see some Herring Gulls (little white flecks) on the stack

c stackA little closer and the subject is just visible at the top of the stack bang on the shadow line; the dark curve of the tyre just discernible.

digiscoping view……………………Here’s the view from the digiscoper’s perspective, at the cliff top

b Herring Gull stackHere’s the bizarre scene. Herring Gull, Tyre and Gargoyle. I know how the gull got there but do you know how the other 2 items ended up perched atop an inaccessible rock?

a ring readingand here’s what can be done with a bit of practice and the right gear. Have to say my camera settings (Canon s95) were much improved by highly skilled Steve Blain going at the settings in a manner reminiscent of a  Rubix cube champion. The photo is a but grainy but not bad! I know others familiar with digiscoping won’t be surprised at such details but I still find it pretty amazing when I think back to results obtained with my start-up Olympus SLR and Tokina mirror lens…

rock pip 1rock pip 2and in nearby cliff top fields this Rock Pipit could have been a Scandinavia littoralis but low evening sun corrupting colours and trickiness of some birds at this time of year left me equivocal.

Russell Slack

You Take Care

Numb. I’ve been writing this in my head for over 2 weeks now. The trouble is words feel so small and will fail to communicate how much the touch of another’s life affects you. Like many the news of Russ’s death was a shock. Today is his funeral, so I, with many others will be remembering him with great fondness and thinking about his young family. Others knew him far better. To me, he was the guy who lived just north of Sheffield (when we arrived as a family), later moving up to the Lower Derwent Valley. I went birding with him in the LDV, in the Sheffield area and tried to grip him off on his pioneering patch around Whitby. He inspired and set me up to write “Frontiers in Birding” and wrote better books himself. He was quiet, humble with a deep inner strength. The way he dealt with life and people, even in his own death are a mark of his character and ones worth emulating. Others have written really helpful and moving words about Russ which I commend to anyone reading this: here and here. Perhaps Russ’s most frequent parting words were ‘You take care’. There was never anything ‘throw away’ about it and I don’t think I ever really heard the same phrase from anyone else. It always came across as most genuine. One life impacts another more than the person perhaps ever realises. Today I am thinking especially of him and praying for Linda, India and Ruby. Thank You Russ. You take care.

Digiscoping Woodcock

Flamborough, 11th March 2013

by Martin G.

woodcock s landing a 11.03.2013

Capturing a moment… and the details. I guess that’s ultimately why I love taking photos. I have lots of stories of mediocre photography and failed efforts! ‘Digiscoping’ is undoubtedly the realm of bird and wildlife photography I have struggled with the most. Fundamentally the art is to take photos with an ordinary ‘family’ camera by placing the camera lens up to a high powered birding telescope so that the ‘scope effectively becomes a super lens for the camera. I did ‘OK’ about 10 years ago by hand holding a Nikon Coolpix up to my scope. However with new cameras, heralded as the route to new heights of photo quality- I only seemed to get worse despite careful coaching by friends. Honestly, I was ready to give up. It seemed too complicated, the results often poor and seemingly interfering with ‘birding’. More recently however, spurred on by the quality of images and especially video which James Lees (Slimbridge WWT warden) was achieving and with regular encouragements from Paul Hackett and others, I opted to have one more go. Over the last couple of years I feel like I have broken through- a little. For a lot of photography I use DSLR camera – a Canon 7D with 400 f5,6 lens  It does an amazing job. However sometimes the birds are simply too far away. Then the digiscoping kicks in. Furthermore, with digiscoping,  I love that you can do video!

So I am embarking on a series of occasional posts on digiscoping in conjunction with Swarovksi Optik (UK). I am definitely NOT an expert, more of a novitiate and I do and will make mistakes. I also struggle a lot with technicalities such as camera settings and post processing. But I am enjoying what can be achieved with a little effort. I will be involving one or two others who know their stuff as well. Hope you enjoy it and find it helpful.

Here’s my start-up effort from yesterday:

Woodcock at South Landing, Flamborough.


2 birds are roosting on the far side of the ravine, occasionally coming out to feed. It was a good test being very windy, with variable light from grey cloud and snow showers to odd bursts of sunshine. And the birds were in open or under poorly light canopy. It was too far to get a really nice DSLR shot (see below). I used a Canon S95 Camera taking photos through a Swarovski ATX95 ‘scope. There camera is held securely in place by a gizmo called the DCB ll swing adaptor.

woodcock s landing a2 11.03.2013Woodcock, South Landing, Flamborough (above and top). A lovely looker with American Woodcock-like grey strips.

On Video: Woodcock and Worms

I have several sections of video of both birds which too me look really good! However when I uploaded to YouTube  the compression? of the file just made it look ‘orrible. So I am trying Vimeo (basic) with one section and welcome suggestion on how to get the best out of publishing videos online. Only a few seconds, have a look:


woodcock s landing bird b 11.03.2013Woodcock, South Landing, Flamborough. A more typical looking browner bird which kept to the deeper shaded zones. Amazes me what can be achieved. No it hasn’t one of the notorious ‘half-bills’. In fact the bill tip is covered in mud.


woodcock watching

watching woodcock Illustrating the view and distance  The Woodcock were mid way up the far slope.

In Comparison:

To compare digiscoping with normal photography I include  2 shots of the first bird above, but this time taken with the Canon DSLR and 400mm lens. Acceptable, but heavily cropped due to the distance and I don’t think the results are as good. Also don’t think I cold get anything like the same quality of video!

woodcock 7d c

woodcock 7dWoodcock, South Landing, Flamborough. Upper 2 shots using ‘normal’ technique with Canon 7D and 400mm lens.

in association with Swarovski Optik

Enfoque en: Trepatroncos Centroamericanos

After publishing Focus on: Central American Woodcreepers on Birding Frontiers in January, Honduran friend and colleague, Fabiola Rodriguez, mentioned that after sharing the piece with some friends in Central America, its dissemination was limited due to the language barrier. In response to this, it is with great pleasure that this has now been translated to Spanish, allowing for a greater readership in Latin America.
Special thanks must go to Fabiola Rodriguez for doing this!

¡Trepatroncos Maravillosos!

Por Sam

¡Agradecimiento especial a una buena amiga y colega Fabiola Rodríguez por traducir este artículo y permitir su lectura en países latinoamericanos!
Trepatroncos- un grupo diverso de moradores de los  árboles del bosque neotropical de carácter críptico y de tonos café que fácilmente pueden ser calificados como monótonos o no tan espectaculares por los aficionados a la observación de aves al ser comparados con el plumaje o estilo de vida de otras especialidades del neotrópico. Pienso que merecen un poco más de atención y quizá sean más intrigantes de lo que nos dejan ver al principio…

Tradicionalmente tratados como una familia aparte, Dendrocolaptidae, ahora forman parte de la extensa familia suboscina neotropical Furnariidae también llamados coloquialmente horneros (algo confuso para algunos ya que el hornero – “ovenbird” también es el nombre común de un chipe del nuevo mundo de zonas templadas). Como producto de la evolución convergente, muestran similitudes con la familia de trepadores, Certhiidae, cuya distribución básicamente es del viejo mundo. Al ser únicos al neotrópico y carecer de una contraparte en Asia y el bosque Afro-tropical, se convierten en un tema fascinante para estudiar por su traslape de nicho y su ecología de forrajeo en relación a la edad y estructura del bosque.

Trepatroncos corona-punteada Lepidocolaptes affinis- Una vista típica de esta especie del bosque nublado.

Trepatroncos corona-punteada Lepidocolaptes affinis– Una vista típica de esta especie del bosque nublado.

A pesar de ser generalmente de tonos cafés  y estriados, los trepatroncos son altamente variables en morfología y tamaño. Desde los más pequeños y delicados como el trepatroncos pico-cuña hasta los corpulentos trepatroncos colorado y gigante, los más grandes y corpulentos representantes del género Xiphocolaptes.  Se conoce que se alimentan principalmente de artrópodos arbóreos, pequeños vertebrados como lagartijas, ranas y regularmente de algunas especies de serpientes pequeñas. A esto se suman registros de depredación de nidos y alimentación especialista al visitar enjambres de hormigas.

Existen aproximadamente más de 50 especies que forman el gremio de trepatroncos en Centro y Suramérica. Este grupo, como la mayoría de las familias neotropicales diversas, se encuentran presentes en una variedad de hábitat, desde los bosques de altura de Polylepis sp. de la pendiente oeste andina hasta el bosque tropical de bajura de la cuenca amazónica. Predeciblemente, Suramérica cuenta con la mayor diversidad de especies de trepatroncos.

En general, se conoce poco sobre los trepatroncos. Muchas descripciones biológicas como reproducción y anidamiento, ecología alimenticia y muda son desconocidas para muchas especies y las dinámicas de bioacústica en trepatroncos como grupo son poco comprendidas. Similarmente, la taxonomía de los trepatroncos se encuentra  relativamente en su infancia, con algunas especies probablemente representadas en la actualidad por un número de especies. Por ejemplo el pequeño trepatroncos oliváceo, actualmente se considera monotípico y por ende, es la única especie en su género Sittasomus. Se encuentra representado por 20 subespecies (de acuerdo a la taxonomía de IOC) desde el norte de México hasta el noreste de Argentina. Se espera, sin embargo, que existan una cantidad de formas distintas en la misma especie. Estas subespecies se han “agrupado” en cinco radiaciones, con más estudio particularmente en análisis de vocalizaciones, esta es una investigación con prioridad.

Trepatroncos oliváceo Sittasomus griseicapillus-  Cola de un juvenil mostrando muda simétrica de rectrices donde R1 y R2 estan en crecimiento. Esta fotografía muestra el raquis largo de las rectrices en trepatroncos les sirve para balance.

Trepatroncos oliváceo Sittasomus griseicapillus– Cola de un juvenil mostrando muda simétrica de rectrices donde R1 y R2 estan en crecimiento. Esta fotografía muestra el raquis largo de las rectrices en trepatroncos les sirve para balance.

Durante trabajo de investigación en Honduras (Parque Nacional Cusuco) en el verano, tuve la oportunidad de apreciar de cerca y de manera personal lo que se volvió firmemente uno de mis grupos favoritos de aves desde mi primera visita al neotrópico. Ocho especies se encuentran fotografiadas a continuación para dar un vistazo a la diversidad y morfología de este grupo fascinante.

Trepatroncos Rojizo Dendrocincla homochroa

Trepatroncos Rojizo Dendrocincla homochroa

Los trepatroncos rojizos son asociados usualmente con las hormigas y puede ser dificil avistarlos lejos de los enjambres de las mismas. Se encuentra restringido a Centroamérica aparte de una o dos poblaciones segregadas en el norte de Suramérica. Esta es posiblemente la forma nominal homochroa.

Trepatroncos Oliváceo Sittasomus griseicapillus

Trepatroncos Oliváceo Sittasomus griseicapillus

Juvenil de Trepatroncos oliváceo- Bajo una muda pos-juvenil que se supone completa en la mayoría de los trepatroncos. P5 se observa en crecimiento con P6-9 aun de primera generación, así como las coberteras primarias correspondientes.

Juvenil de Trepatroncos oliváceo– Bajo una muda pos-juvenil que se supone completa en la mayoría de los trepatroncos. P5 se observa en crecimiento con P6-9 aun de primera generación, así como las coberteras primarias correspondientes.

Los trepatroncos oliváceos poseen un rango de distribución extenso en el neotrópico. Como se mencionó anteriormente, vocalmente son muy interesantes y esta distribución puede ser explorada en xeno-canto aquí. Este es de la forma sylvioides que compone parte del grupo centroamericano griseus (de los cinco mencionados anteriormente). Uno de los caracteres de este grupo es la banda blancuzca o crema como puede ser observada en la imagen arriba.

Trepatroncos Gigante Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus

Trepatroncos Gigante Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus

Trepatroncos gigante-. Este individuo era una hembra con un parche de incubación en recuperación, P1 también se encontraba en muda simétrica indicando que el ave comenzaba su rutinaria muda pos-reproductiva.

Trepatroncos gigante-. Este individuo era una hembra con un parche de incubación en recuperación, P1 también se encontraba en muda simétrica indicando que el ave comenzaba su rutinaria muda pos-reproductiva.

Este trepatroncos es uno de los más grandes con una distribución que abarca la mayor parte del neotrópico. Como el trepatroncos oliváceo, posee una taxonomía que se conoce de manera escasa con 24 sub especies conocidas (IOC). Se ha sugerido que es probable que existan tres radiaciones bajo esta especie. Este individuo es de la forma emigrans y parte del grupo mesoamericano. Son especímenes impresionantes en el campo, como lo muestra este video de uno devorando una polilla (Sphingidae).

Trepatroncos Pico-cuña Glyphorynchus spirurus

Trepatroncos Pico-cuña Glyphorynchus spirurus

El trepatroncos pico-cuña tiene una distribución amplia en el neotrópico y se encuentra representado en 14 sub especies. Este juvenil es de la raza centroamericana pectoralis. La variación acústica puede ser considerable, como puede ser explorado aquí.

Trepatroncos Barrado Norteño Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae

Trepatroncos Barrado Norteño Dendrocolaptes sanctithomae

Trepatroncos barrado norteño- Hembra con parche de incubación en recuperación también presentando una muda simétrica de P1 comenzando una muda pos-reproductiva. Foto- Jo Kingsbury

Trepatroncos barrado norteño– Hembra con parche de incubación en recuperación también presentando una muda simétrica de P1 comenzando una muda pos-reproductiva. Foto- Jo Kingsbury

Anteriormente subsumido bajo el trepatroncos amazónico barrado D. certhia, los trepatroncos barrados norteños tienen principalmente una distribución centroamericana con las aves de Honduras representando la forma nominal sanctithomae. Estos son otra especie conocida por seguir enjambres de hormigas. Los trepatroncos barrados norteños poseen vocalizaciones peculiares pero distintivas y pueden ser escuchadas aquí.

Trepatroncos manchado Xiphorhynchus erythropygius

Trepatroncos manchado- Juvenil con una visible comisura en pico. Foto- Iain Dickson

Trepatroncos manchado– Juvenil con una visible comisura en pico. Foto- Iain Dickson

Básicamente de distribución centroamericana el trepatroncos manchado es un residente de bosque montano, su trino descendiente es comúnmente escuchado al amanecer en los bosques de Cusuco. Las aves hondureñas son representadas por la subespecie parvus.

Trepatroncos Corona-Punteada Lepidocolaptes affinis

Trepatroncos corona punteada- La delgada raya malar se aprecia ligeramente en esta foto, uno de los rasgos característicos que lo distingue del similar trepatroncos corona-rayada.

Trepatroncos corona punteada– La delgada raya malar se aprecia ligeramente en esta foto, uno de los rasgos característicos que lo distingue del similar trepatroncos corona-rayada.

Otro especialista típico de los bosques nublados centroamericanos, el trepatroncos corona punteada es uno de los más frecuentes encontrados en Parque Nacional Cusuco y en Honduras se encuentra representado por la raza nominada affinis. A altitudes menores se ve reemplazado por el congénere trepatroncos cabeza rayada. L. souleyetii.

Trepatroncos Sepia Dendrocincla anabatina

Trepatroncos sepia- Adulto y juvenil con variación en color de ojo interesante. Foto- Lynn Schofield

Trepatroncos sepia– Adulto y juvenil con variación en color de ojo interesante. Foto- Lynn Schofield

El trepatroncos sepia aun es un enigma en Cusuco, con los primeros registros de esta área protegida proviniendo de la temporada 2012 de trabajo de campo. Aun cuando monitoreos se hayan llevado a cabo en años anteriores, esto no es del todo sorprendente debido a la baja tasa de detección de algunos trepatroncos en bosque denso.  Es un congénere del trepatroncos rojizo en Dendrocincla y también es conocido por sus hábitos de seguir enjambres de hormigas así como seguir tropas de monos ardilla que se alimentan de insectos voladores.
En Honduras se encuentran una vez más representados por la raza nominal anabatina.

¿Se encuentra pajareando en el neotrópico pronto o ya ha visitado esta zona? Ha visto algo que puede elucidar más sobre la vida críptica de algún trepatroncos. Con información básica aun desconocida como biología reproductiva, las observaciones casuales de campo pueden ser de mucha significancia para ciertas especies. Si Usted ha visto pero no observado a los trepatroncos en el pasado, le animo para que profundice. ¡Nunca se sabe lo que se puede encontrar!

Black Brant Hybrids

in Norfolk

by James McCallum

(all photos by Martin Garner)

Black brant hybrid lone bird aAdult Black Brant X Dark-bellied Brent, Holkham, February 2013

Some of my earliest memories of growing up on the north Norfolk coast are of flocks of Brent Geese and their lovely muttering calls. In my early teens I developed a stronger interest in the local bird life and a closer look at the Brent flocks occasionally revealed the presence of a few Pale-bellied Brents and, more rarely, a Black Brant. Such occurrences set the scene for the following two decades – although in some winters, small influxes of Pale-bellied Brents occurred and occasionally two or three Black Brants graced the local flocks.

In January 2001 I was watching a flock of Brents at Burnham Deepdale when, suddenly, a rather well-marked Black Brant walked into my telescope view. This well-built bird frequently adopted a very upright stance and regularly made threat postures aimed towards other geese that ventured too close. I was confident that it was a gander and it wasn’t too long before it became apparent that it was paired to a Dark-bellied Brent Goose. This was the first occasion that I could recall seeing a vagrant Black Brant that had formed a pair bond with a Dark-bellied Brent and my interest turned to surprise when the pair came towards the edge of the flock to reveal four hybrid goslings in tow!

This was the first time that a mixed pairing had been recorded in Norfolk and, prior to this, there had only ever been one other documented British record -a mixed pair with six hybrid young was found by Barry Collins at Thorney Island, West Sussex in the early winter months of 1989 (two of these original hybrids returning during the following three winters). The same observer also found a second adult Brant (another gander, but this one was without a mate) in the same area between October 1991 and March 1992, accompanied by four juveniles that resembled berniclas (the other adult may have died on migration or on the breeding grounds, or the Brant may even have adopted the family).

In subsequent winters after 2001, two more mixed pairings with hybrid young appeared in Norfolk, both in the Wells and Holkham area. They could often be encountered, with ease, on the Pitch & Putt course near Wells Beach Road or in the fields adjacent to Lady Anne’s Drive at Holkham. These Norfolk hybrid youngsters have shown high survival rates and, in common with many of the Brent flocks, are largely site-faithful.  At least seven birds have returned as adult hybrids and currently, in the winter of 2012-’13, at least four are to be found in north Norfolk – one at Burnham Overy and three in the Wells/Holkham area (with one or two of these also appearing at Cley during a period of cold weather in January).

Picking out a potential Black Brant as it walks into view amongst a flock of Dark-bellied Brents is both instantaneous and exciting – working out whether it is a pure Brant or a hybrid may take a little longer but, so long as the views and light are good, it should prove possible. The returning birds have provided an excellent opportunity for observers to familiarise themselves with the appearance of adult hybrids of known parentage. Interestingly these hybrids have (so far!) all shared a remarkably consistent appearance.


Pure Black Brants show distinct brown hues on their body feathers. The tone can vary in its darkness but the brown hue is always present – I tend to liken the colour to ‘plain chocolate’ or ‘tar brown’ whereas others describe the brown colour as having ‘tobacco’ hues. The pale flank patch usually has a striking chalky-whiteness which contrasts greatly with the rest of the dark brown body feathers. Hybrids, at first glance, can closely resemble a Black Brant, but more prolonged study will reveal some subtle differences in plumage hues that hint at the Dark-bellied influence -the body feathers have distinct grey hues and the flank patch often appears slightly ‘dirty’, caused by a pale buff-grey wash.

These plumages hues can, however, be influenced by light. Bright but overcast days are particularly good for assessing the subtle plumage hues of Brent Geese.  Full sun can sometimes ‘burn out’ some of these subtleties. On very dull, overcast days assessing the plumage colours can prove problematic. Hybrids can look quite dark and, at times, the grey hues of the body feathers frustratingly difficult to see. During these lighting conditions it is worth concentrating on the back feathers that catch the light e.g. the mantle and upper scapulars. As the bird turns, these highlighted areas will often be the first to show the telltale grey hues of a hybrid. As ever prolonged observation will often provide a more accurate picture of true colour and tone. (It may be worth noting that on very dull days most pure Black Brants appear very ‘black and white’, they often appear as if the contrast level has been turned up! On such days there is very little or no distinct division between the breast and belly and this dark feathering can make the flank patch and collar especially white and dazzling.)

Neck Collars

The neck collar detail of the returning adult hybrids has varied between individuals.  When viewed from the side most birds have a large, striking Black Brant-like collar but on the majority of birds the collar is broken at the front, particularly on the upper edge (see illustration). NB when relaxed or feeding it can be difficult to correctly interpret the detail of the collar at the front, some individuals can appear to have a broad unbroken neck collar at the front and it is only when a bird is alert that the true shape of the collar can be seen.

James McCallum hybrid Brants

Neck collars of known hybrid adults – B&C are most frequent whereas A is more unusual (2 individuals). James McCallum.


To date, the plumage colour hues of all of the known hybrids in Norfolk have been consistent. This has suggested that colour hue is probably more helpful than the presence of neck collar that meets at the front when identifying a hybrid.

The following photos, taken in Feb 2013, are of two adult hybrids that continue to return each winter to the Wells and Holkham area.

Hybrid One

Black brant hybrid lone bird b

This eye-catching individual readily stands out from the accompanying Dark-bellied Brents. At first glance it does look very like a Black Brant. The presence of grey hues in the body plumage and the ‘dirty’ wash to the rear flank-patch are indications of a hybrid.

Black brant hybrid lone bird f

In duller light the plumage can appear more contrasting and, frustratingly, the body plumage can sometimes appear to have brown hues. During such conditions this individual can appear extremely Black Brant-like, however,  a greyish ‘bloom’ can often be visible on areas of the mantle and upper scapulars that catch the light as the bird turns.

Black brant hybrid lone bird e

In better light the grey hues and buffy/grey washed rear flanks area much more evident making it easier to identify this bird as a hybrid.  When seen well, the neck collar of this individual is obviously broken at the front. (See Fig ‘C’ in the illustration of neck collar patterns)

Hybrid Two

Black Brant hybrid paired g

This bird has a striking collar. (The collar usually appears unbroken but, at very close range, it has tiny dark flecks eating into the upper edge, immediately below the bill.)

Black Brant hybrid paired e

In spite of the bold neck collar this bird is easier to identify as a hybrid due to the paler greyer hues of the body plumage and the obvious buffy/grey wash to the flank patch.

Black Brant hybrid paired j

In brighter light the Dark-bellied Brent influence is clear to be seen. In the winter of 2012-13 this bird returned paired to a Dark-bellied Brent, with a gosling in tow. The bird’s behaviour showed it to be a gander and it would readily threaten any of goose that wandered too close to his mate and young.

Black Brant hybrid paired l

Hybrid gander paired with Dark-bellied Brent and gosling. This family has spent most of the winter at Lady Anne’s Drive, Holkham. The Brent flock with which they associate often fed close to the road allowing close views and the opportunity to obtain excellent photographs. The resulting images may well represent the first documentation of definite F2 hybrid.

Black Brant hybrid paired f

In terms of plumage the 1st winter F2 gosling shows strong similarities to that of a Dark-bellied Brent. The neck collar is perhaps more striking than an average 1st winter Dark-bellied but it is not exceptional.

Black Brant hybrid paired F2 juv

Living in the heart of a traditional wintering ground of Dark-bellied Brent Geese it has been possible to get to know many of the local flocks and to watch them in a variety of weather and lighting conditions. This privileged situation has proved invaluable for regularly sharing observations and thoughts with other local observers, notably Andrew Bloomfield, Mark Golley and Richard Millington.

Further thoughts – Vagrant Black Brants in Norfolk can vary in the darkness of their body feathers, not all are distinctly ‘black and white’ and it is not uncommon to see a distinct division between the brown body feathers and the blackish neck, (as discussed above, light conditions will, of course, have a great influence). The presence of a neck collar unbroken at the front is often a requirement of an ‘acceptable’ pure Black Brant. It is now clear that an unbroken collar doesn’t exclude a hybrid Black Brant X Dark-bellied Brent.  The question that has to be asked is – how variable are the neck collars on pure Black Brants, particularly during the winter months?  (I have seen a Black Brant in Alaska in early summer with a neck collar that only met at the front on the lower edge). I guess that the answer can only come from those with experience of Black Brants within their native range.

James McCallum

Many thanks to Mark Golley for reading through the first draft and commenting on the text.

Siberian Chiffchaff

at the edges…

A quick update on the Dorset (PC World) Chiffchaffs reported here.

While 2 individuals looked to be straightforward ‘tristis’, one of the birds fell into the category of ‘interesting and worthy of careful study’. In the field, appearing to show Siberian-esq characters, it was certainly no straightforward ‘collybita‘. We held back from calling it more than a ‘possible Siberian Chiffchaff’. No call was heard. Grey and olive above, with very Siberian-like head pattern it also has quite a lot of yellow across the breast. These features were evident in field and in hand.

Thanks to enterprising local ringers, this bird was trapped a couple of weeks back (17th Feb. 2013) and with necessary permissions, feathers have been sent off for DNA analysis. A further twist in the story is that it’s retrap which wintered at the site in 2009. With grateful thanks to Marcus Lawson and said Dorset ringers. This is a very interesting scoop and will no doubt provide learning for all.

Here’s how it looked close up on 17th February:

ringed poss tristis Chiffchaff 17th Feb 2013 014

ringed poss tristis d Chiffchaff 17th Feb 2013 014.

ringed poss tristis e Chiffchaff 17th Feb 2013 014.

and when we saw and reported it in the field on 31st January:

tristis type ringed bird 2013-02-14_062403

tristis type ringed bird 2013 strip(above 4 photos) Possible Siberian Chiffchaff, Poole, Dorset, 31st January 2013 by Martin Garner. This, Bird Two is the ringed bird. With extra olive above and yellow below it’s not straightforward though watching it live it certainly gave off a Siberian air’; an individual worthy of further careful study and recording.