Monthly Archives: December 2013

Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll – maybe?

Magical Moments 2013 #13

Quendale poll oct 2013

What: an Arctic Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni that might have been a Hornemann’s or Icelandic Arctic or Coues’s Arctic …

WhoPaul Harvey, Roger Riddington and Richard Schofield

Where: Quendale Mill, South Mainland, Shetland

When: last full day of my autumn birding session on Shetland, Sunday 13th October 2013

Why:   Because we don’t know what it is… exactly. Quendale has served me up with 3 finds with Roger and Paul: 3 Olive-backed Pipits and an American  Buff-bellied Pipit. So it was a case of, joined by RS on my last day on Shetland, autumn 2013 and what would we find this time? Well, at the time we thought it most likely a young Hornemann’s. But assessing size was really hard; it was on it’s own. I managed no definite sound recordings which could have been very helpful. When it flew off, other redpolls appeared and confusion set in.  Why was it so buffy down the flanks? It was clearly an ‘Arctic type’, but there are 3 you see 😉 Coues’s, Icelandic and Hornemann’s. Lovely photos of 1st winter Hornemann’s taken by Chris van Rijswijk in this month’s Birding World resurrected my confidence that it probably was a Hornemamn’s.

But I like it as a last farewell to 2013, because it keeps me humble and exploring and asking questions- even if I get it wrong or just plain get confounded by nature sometimes.

Never lose the wonder!

It’s also GOODBYE to this face of the Birding Frontiers blog, as – all being well – a new face, with new stuff and some new team will appear very soon to launch us into 2014…

So THANK YOU for visiting and contributing. We hope you have a very happy New Year and your hopes and dreams take off 2014.

Very best wishes for 2014!

'Arctic'  Redpoll, Quendale, October 2013.

‘Arctic’ Redpoll, Quendale, October 2013.

Gullfest Ringing Recovery in Leicester

 Arctic Niceness!

…to quote a certain Tormod Amundsen. Delighted to get this mail from Steve Lister who has seen of the argentatus Herring Gulls ringed during Gullfest 2012 on Vardo. Very cool. It’s wintering in Leicester somewhere…

One of that batch of argentatus Herring Gulls being ringed at the Arctic Gullfest in April 2012. And you can mix gull wing tip studies with playing in the snow.

One of that batch of argentatus Herring Gulls being ringed at the Arctic Gullfest in April 2012. And you can mix gull wing tip studies with playing in the snow.

 Hi Martin

Firstly, Happy Christmas to you and your family.

 I had the morning at Shawell, one of my gull spots, and read ring Black JX203 on an adult Herring Gull. It turns out that you are listed as one of the ringers, at Vardo on 14.04.2012. 

Best wishes

Steve Lister

Gullfest ringing station at Vardo, Varanger, April 2012. This was also the gullfest basecamp. Steve's sighting of  black was ringed here.

Gullfest ringing station at Vardo, Varanger, April 2012. This was also the gullfest basecamp. Steve’s sighting of Black JX203 was ringed here. Now it’s wintering in England.


Barolo Shearwater

Magical Moments 2013 #12

Barolos_Shearwater-0443

What: Barolo (Little) Shearwater Puffinus baroli

Who: Marc Hughes, Rob Sandham, Dani López-Velasco, Juan Sagardia, Porti Porti, Dave Gosney, Pierre-André Crochet, Eric Didner, Johannes Dag Mayer and all thee other guys on the 48 hour pelagic…

Where: 50 miles north of Lanzarote and all water in-between

When: late August 2013

Why: get on….this…. small shearwater, is what he said. He never said “Is this a Manx”, ” Look at this funny Manx”- etc. etc. Marc Hughes that is. On clocking the bird- Manx Shearwater never even entered the thought process. Once again sharp-eyed Dani called it large: BAROLO! Unfamiliar blunt whirring wings/ rapidly flapping (much more so than Manx), whole different jizz, and then as it turned that open ‘white face’. Amazingly Johannes got some photos of the bird as we sped along and the bird twisted and turned. Very cool. The first Barolo Shearwater on the Lanzarote Pelagics- a species in serious decline with Canaries population on verge of extinction.

Marc Hughes sat next to me on our wee yacht, knifing through blue sub-tropical seas, shares the moment (sorry ’bout the wind noise):

Barolos_Shearwater-0444Barolo Shearwater– all photos by Johannes Dag Mayer (with thanks). The photo directly above nicely shows 2 rows of white-tipped coverts ( greater and median) a key feature if you get to see or photograph them.

See more on Johannes photos on his Flickr stream >>>HERE<<<

gang on lanza

Huge thanks again to  Juan and Dani who set the whole thing up, here with my travelling companions from North Wales, Rob Sandham and Marc Hughes.

crew

Another great wee adventure on the Lanzarote Pelagics…

Greenish Warbler and Marsh Warbler

Magical Moments 2013 #11

a Greenish Warbler Quendale May 2013

What: Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides trochiloides

Who: my Shetland Nature group, Paul Harvey and Roger Riddington

Where: Quendale Mill, Shetland

WhenSaturday 1st June, 2013

Why:  The Marsh Warbler pictured below found in the Mill garden soon after we arrived – would have been enough on its own to make our tea stop worth while. When the Greenish Warbler (above) popped out 10 minutes later, it became on of the best pit stops of  the spring tour. A year tick for Paul Harvey on his successful attempt at breaking the Shetland year list. Roger also noted the calls which I missed- typical double note of Greenish…

Marsh Warbler d Quendale spring 2013

Caspian Stonechat

Magical Moments 2013 #10

1cy female hemprichii Negev 8th Nov 2013 Martin garner 2g

What: female Caspian Stonechat, Saxicola hemprichii 🙂

Who: Yoav Perlman plus Meidad Goren and fellow ringers

Where: Negev desert, Israel

When: 8th November 2013

Why:  The male Caspian Stonechats are increasingly well know. The females are not. Can you identify them in the field? Are they being overlooked? Well I discovered lots about them this year. My favourite moment was finding and debating this one with Yoav and his triumph at proving me wrong :). More on this one to be told later in 2014.

Pale Adult Kumlien’s Gull in Holland

Headlines:

  • Mega rare. Only 2 previously accepted records in the Netherlands
  • Identity of paler end adult Kumlien’s Gulls gets some airtime
  • New taxon for that province
Adult Kumliens' Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. Photographed in SW gale. Apparent grey subterminal bands on primaries, details of which became clearer in photos: full bands crossing outer primaries, p8 and p7

Adult Kumliens’ Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. Photographed in SW gale. Apparent grey subterminal bands on primaries, details of which became clearer in photos: full bands crossing outer primaries, p8 and p7

Vincent van der Spek

On 24 December I worked at home. I decided to spend my lunch break in Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Nothing much was around. I did a last check at the jetty and… I couldn’t believe my eyes when an adult Iceland Gull flew by! IG’s are scarce in Holland, and adults are downright rare! I phoned some people and put out a rare bird alert. The bird was swimming at sea at quite a distance, but it was steady.

When the bird came a bit closer after 25 minutes it appeared to have some dark markings in the wing. There even seemed to be some subterminal bands on some primaries. However: the circumstances were hard. There was a south westerly gale (7 Bft) with some rain. We had some shelter from the small light house, but since I was on a pier I had to somewhat careful. All in all having a real good look and making good shots was hard. In the meantime my friends Arjan Dwarshuis en Hemme Batjes arrived. After 40 minutes it finally came close. I walked up to the swimming bird, but at an estimated distance of 65 feet it unexpectedly flew off: apparently it was a shy bird. I managed to make one proper shot of the swimming bird and a few reasonable flight shots.

Adult Kumliens' Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. The outermost 3 primaries, p10, p9 and p8 have outer webs darker and contrasting with paler inner webs.

Adult Kumliens’ Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. The outermost 3 primaries, p10, p9 and p8 have outer webs darker and contrasting with paler inner webs.

At home I was able to have a proper look at my pictures. I noticed that the outer webs of p10, p9 and p8 were indeed darker than the inner webs. There was a greyish sub terminal, closed band on both p7 and p8. The one on p8 was connected with the darker outer shaft. Because it was not a very dark individual, it had a pale iris, and the markings in the wing (outer webs; sub terminal bands) were not very dark, I was still careful. Mind that there are only two accepted records in The Netherlands (with a third one pending ) a very rare bird indeed, and – if accepted – this record will be a new taxon for the province.

So first I read some books and articles and I contacted several people, including Martin. I never got back to work that afternoon! The responds were merely positive: yes, this pattern fits Kumlien’s Gull! Darker outer webs can occur on p10 on Iceland Gull, possibly on p9, but not on p8. Also, the sub terminal bands are unknown in Iceland Gull.

Adult Kumliens' Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. Close -up of outer wing details.

Adult Kumliens’ Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. Close -up of outer wing details.

Of course most larophiles are cautious as well. Now this bird will without a doubt be regarded a Kumlien’s in Newfoundland. However, virtually everything we know about kumlieni is from the wintering grounds, we do not know the variation in Iceland Gull and we know nothing about hybrids between Kumlien’s and Iceland – though it has never been proven, it doesn’t mean interbreeding doesn’t exist. They are gulls – and gulls have other thoughts about taxa and species than humans do! And let’s not forget: many believe Kumlien’s Gull is a hybrid population between Thayer’s Gull and Iceland Gull in the first place.

Steve Howell wrote a great thing about hybridising Thayer’s Gull and Kumlien’s Gull: “We can’t learn how much they interbreed until we can distinguish them, but we can’t distinguish them because they appear to interbreed.”

There are people who say: there’s so much unknown about the whole complex, so let’s not accept this kind of birds until we have a deeper understanding about this. Other people say: there’s so much unknown about the whole complex, so let’s accept this kind of birds until we have a deeper understanding about this.

Adult Kumliens' Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek.

Adult Kumliens’ Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek.

My suggestion to our rarity committee will be: why not use a new category: the ‘kumlieni-type’ bird? This could be either kumlieni , a kumlieni x glaucoides or a thayeri x glaucoides, or even thayeri  x kumlieni. It does justice to the fact that odd birds with North-American blood turn up in Europe, but also to the fact that much is still unknown. And it even does justice to the fact that kumlieni might either be a valid subspecies, or a hybrid population.

What do you think?

PS No matter what, I saw a beautiful adult Iceland Gull of some sort!

Eds. To me this is straightforward kumlieni as we have come to understand for many years. Any adult ‘Iceland Gull’ showing darker outer webs to outer primaries, extending as they do a little farther down the shaft, especially on p8- and with full grey bands covering both webs of 2 outer most primaries- more than enough to secure a Kumlien’s! Do you agree? Have a different view? Let us know. MG

kleine bur Scheveningen 241213 nr 1b

 

Baltic Gulls

Magical Moments 2013 #9

 

1cy Baltic Gull, Ashdod, Israel, 7th October 2011 by Amir Ben Dov. Check out that underwing!

1cy Baltic Gull, Ashdod, Israel, 7th October 2011 by Amir Ben Dov. Check out that underwing!

What: juvenile Baltic Gulls,  Larus fuscus fuscus

Who: No-one with me, but the gull nerds who engage with this stuff:  Chris Gibbins, Ian Lewington, Mark Golley, Richard Millington, Yoav Perlman, Amir Ben Dov, Brett Richards +Brian Small.

Where: Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire

When: late September 2013

Why:  As if finding 4 Caspian Gulls in 11 days this far north wasn’t enough :). In with this movement of ‘eastern gulls’ I picked out 2-3 really frosty juvenile Lesser Black back Gulls. Every time I saw one well it had an outstanding character- white feather tracts in the under wing. Whats’ cool is that it has underlined a new hypothesis: This may be a strong/ diagnostic feature of juvenile Baltic Gull. No-ones disagree and while caution is the by word, is caution with optimism. This might really work! To be cont’d…

Juvenile Gull showing characters of some Baltic Gulls, Flamborugh, 21st Sept. 2013. Martin Garner. Careful watching of this individual revealed white feather tracts in underwing. These types are rare but regular in east England in late summer/ autumn and unlike hundred of checked graellsii and intermedius type, the white underwing panels are there, when they look like this.

Juvenile Gull showing characters of some Baltic Gulls, Flamborugh, 21st Sept. 2013. Martin Garner. Careful watching of this individual revealed white feather tracts in underwing. These types are rare but regular in east England in late summer/ autumn and unlike hundred of checked graellsii and intermedius type, the white underwing panels are there, when they look like this.

 

Video of this bird and more photos showing this ‘feature’ go >>> HERE <<<