Monthly Archives: May 2014

Five Bee-eaters and a Red-backed Shrike

at Flamborough

Of course lots more here and you may have already heard. We got some proper spring colour today on the East Yorkshire Coast:

More (nicer) photos and news on the Flamborough Bird Obs website

Come on cough it up! the hard bits of insects don't digest very well a and get regurgitated.

Come on cough it up! the hard bits of insects don’t digest very well a and get regurgitated.

male Red-backed Shrike added value to an already cool day

male Red-backed Shrike added value to an already cool day

Pale Grasshopper Warbler and identifying eastern birds

straminea or no?

Peter Alker

The identification and occurrence of Eastern Grasshopper Warblers in Western Europe is a subject which still seems in its infancy. Here is another contribution and a fascinating looking bird in Wigan, Greater Manchester. And some of us remember well the Black-faced Bunting which Peter found…

Hi Martin,

I wondered if you could give me your opinion on a Grasshopper Warbler that I caught recently (25th April 2014). It was extremely pale as you can see and to put it simply I don’t know if it could be a contender for straminea or if it could be just an exceptionally and unusually pale naevia. There is very little in the way of photos on the web and certainly nothing quite as olive-grey as my bird. I have read the paper from the BBRC files and previous posts on Birding Frontiers and only eastern birds seem to have grey forms.

I have caught a number of Groppers this spring and most have been the normal olive or olive brown variety but this bird made me check it was actually a Gropper as it looked so different. I am now aware of the structural difference that may exist in a few examples but there is nothing to help us there. The wing length was 64mm so it wasn’t particularly small

I have my own blog and you can view that here  http://two-in-a-bush.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/what-gropper.html

What do you think?

Kind Regards, Peter Alker

 

Over to you guys. It’s a remarkable looking bird which would presumably be quite eye-catching in the field. Below the first photos is an ‘ordinary’ Grasshopper Warbler (also on Peter’s blog). All the other shots are of this pale, short-winged bird. All photos by Peter. For more see his blog >>> HERE <<<

'normal' Grasshopper Warbler. 20th April 2014 Peter Alker

‘normal’ Grasshopper Warbler. 20th April 2014 Peter Alker

All photos below of pale Grasshopper Warbler, 25th April 2014, Wigan, Greater Manchester by Peter Alker

Z019219 Z019219 Z019219 front view Z019219

.

Pallid X Montagu’s Harrier

Apparent mixed pairing in Spain

Juan Sagardia

News in from Juan of this apparent pairing between a male Pallid harrier and female Montagu’s Harrier in Zamora, Spain. All the glorious photos taken by him.
 

I suppose if you were a off-the-beaten track male Pallid harrier with no females (or other males) around you go for the next best thing… Pallid Harrier is classified as near threatened globally and recent expansion in toward western Europe perhaps the species response/ reaction to factors affecting the population elsewhere.

First you arrive in the area looking your awesome self!

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The local ladies find you quiet attractive if a little different so try to get away from you…

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!cid_5A657F7F-E2BE-4C09-9019-473643E12C10@lan

One of the local lads takes exception to you- so you have to fight him off

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Finally you settle down with the Mrs for the summer…

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Ever hear of this pairing before? If it all works out for the couple, Offspring could make an interesting ID challenge somewhere this autumn…

 

Western Subalpine Warbler

at Spurn (Home of the Migration Festival!)

Found yesterday by Sue Hepton. More details and more photos

 >>> HERE <<<

2 of Ian Smith’s photos which show a 1st summer male with its worn brown wings and tail which would be blacker, fringed pale and fresher looking in adult male. Also less colour below than adult male.

Western Subalpine Warbler, Spurn, 20th May 2014. Ian Smith

Western Subalpine Warbler, Spurn, 20th May 2014. Ian Smith

Western Subalpine Warbler showing tail pattern, Spurn, 20th May 2014. Ian Smith

Western Subalpine Warbler showing tail pattern, Spurn, 20th May 2014. Ian Smith

 

Colour of underparts too orangey for Eastern, white malar stripe looks on short side (extending apparently to juts below eye) though rather thick looking. Pattern of white in second outermost tail feather is essentially white tipped lacking more obvious white notch of Eastern

Here are photos of 1st summer female eastern at Spurn from 2012 (found by Ian Smith!)

At the time this bird wasn’t identified further than generic ‘Subalpine warbler’. However Adam Hutt got photos of the tail and the pattern, though weakly developed (probably retained juvenile tail feathers) is of an Eastern Subalpine Warbler. Here’s the tail of the May 2011 bird:

1st summer female Eastern Subalpine Warbler, May 2011. Adam Hutt.

1st summer female Eastern Subalpine Warbler, May 2011. Adam Hutt.

Reminder about the Marvellous Migration Festival 🙂

Spurn Migration Festival one

 

New speakers, new stalls, new events and a whole lot of migration action going on!

 

Have you Booked Yet? Lots more bookings than this time last year already.

To Book: RING this number

Some photos from a recent trip to Georgia (Eurasia)

Justin Carr

Georgia produces some great birds

 

Some scenic shots

Mountains above Stepantsminda, Georgia © Justin Carr 2014

Mountains above Stepantsminda, Georgia © Justin Carr 2014

Mountain in the Kazbegi Range © Justin Carr 2014

Mountain in the Kazbegi Range © Justin Carr 2014

JC G Above Stepantsminda 2 (1 of 1)

 

Davit Gareja Monastery © Justin Carr 2014

Davit Gareja Monastery © Justin Carr 2014

Davit Gareja Monastery © Justin Carr 2014

Davit Gareja Monastery © Justin Carr 2014

Habitat around Ananuri

 

Some of the birds in Kazbegi in the north of the country

Great Rosefinch © Justin Carr 2014

Great Rosefinch © Justin Carr 2014

White-winged (Guldenstadt's) Redstart © Justin Carr 2014

White-winged (Guldenstadt’s) Redstart © Justin Carr 2014

Eastern Imperial Eagle © Justin Carr 2014

Eastern Imperial Eagle © Justin Carr 2014

Lammergeier over Stepantsminda © Justin Carr 2014

Lammergeier over Stepantsminda © Justin Carr 2014

Ortolan Bunting in the Sno Valley © Justin Carr 2014

Ortolan Bunting in the Sno Valley © Justin Carr 2014

Red-throated Pipit above Stepantsminda © Justin Carr 2014

Red-throated Pipit above Stepantsminda © Justin Carr 2014

Another shot of the same Red-throated Pipit © Justin Carr 2014

Another shot of the same Red-throated Pipit © Justin Carr 2014

One of thousands of Water Pipits seen © Justin Carr 2014

One of thousands of Water Pipits seen © Justin Carr 2014

Steppe Eagle moving towards the pass © Justin Carr 2014

Steppe Eagle moving towards the pass © Justin Carr 2014

A Pallid Harrier approaching the pass © Justin Carr 2014

A Pallid Harrier approaching the pass © Justin Carr 2014

Male Rock Thrush in the Sno Valley © Justin Carr 2014

Male Rock Thrush in the Sno or should it be the Rain Valley © Justin Carr 2014

Rock Bunting in the Sno Valley © Justin Carr 2014

Rock Bunting in the Sno Valley © Justin Carr 2014

One of many thousands of Blue-headed Wagtails seen during the trip © Justin Carr 2014

One of many thousands of Blue-headed Wagtails seen during the trip © Justin Carr 2014

A video grab of a Wallcreeper south of the pass © Justin Carr 2014

A video grab of a Wallcreeper south of the pass © Justin Carr 2014

Some of the birds at Davit Gareja area in the south of the country

Male Black-eared Wheatear © Justin Carr 2014

Male Black-eared Wheatear © Justin Carr 2014

Female Black-eared Wheatear © Justin Carr 2014

Female Black-eared Wheatear © Justin Carr 2014

Western Rock Nuthatch © Justin Carr 2014

Western Rock Nuthatch © Justin Carr 2014

Rock Sparrow © Justin Carr 2014

Rock Sparrow © Justin Carr 2014

Blue Rock Thrush at Cave town near Davit Gareja © Justin Carr 2014

Blue Rock Thrush at Cave town near Davit Gareja © Justin Carr 2014

 

Miscellaneous birds elsewhere

Armenian Gull © Justin Carr 2014

Armenian Gull © Justin Carr 2014

Middle Spotted Woodpecker © Justin Carr 2014

Middle Spotted Woodpecker © Justin Carr 2014

Long-legged Buzzard © Justin Carr 2014

Long-legged Buzzard © Justin Carr 2014

Penduline Tit © Justin Carr 2014

Penduline Tit © Justin Carr 2014

White-tailed Eagle © Justin Carr 2014

White-tailed Eagle © Justin Carr 2014

A party of White-winged Black Terns © Justin Carr 2014

A party of White-winged Black Terns © Justin Carr 2014

White-winged Black Tern © Justin Carr 2014

White-winged Black Tern © Justin Carr 2014

All the above were taken using a Panasonic GH3 with a 20mm pancake lens through a Swarovski 80 scope with a 30x wide angle lens. All in all Georgia was a great trip with lots of great birds and visible migration, some cracking scenery and hospitable people. I would thoroughly recommend the place. ————–

The Portland Flycatcher

Rare or Common or What?

Martin Garner 

A flycatcher seen at Portland Castle, Dorset  on 10th May  I found most intriguing but it seems to have drawn insufficient attention!  I don’t think it’s ‘just’ a Pied Flycatcher, others have also wrestled with it, as ever make up your own mind.  Here are some photos of the bird and some comment.

With grateful thanks to Martin Cade, Brett Spencer and Graham Walbridge for open and very helpful discussion. To Magnus Hellström, Ben Sheldon and Brian Small for excellent input and to Ken Tucker and Debbie Saunders for photos.

flycatcher sp. Debby Saunders

flycatcher sp., Portland Castle, 10th May 2014. Debby Saunders. In this more distant shot the white in wing merges a little slightly exaggerating its appearance. No slur on Debby who posts amazing pics. This shot woke folk up to what seemed a very interesting individual!

Age and Sex

If possible first stage is to age and sex the bird as certain characters are related/relevant to these specifics.  I haven’t found it easy to age (first summer males are the easiest).  I couldn’t immediately see any obvious moult contrast and wear looks even so overall feel for me is probably an adult, though not 100% sure. If a first winter then the white primary patch is huge and would surely indicate that it’s obviously not a Pied Flycatcher and probably a Collared etc.

Magnus Hellström adds more on visible moult contrast:

“The bird does show several moult contrasts, in the greater coverts (approx three outermost are not moulted), in the median coverts (hard to see) and most likely also in the secondaries (the innermost S6, just visible under the longest tertial, seems moulted, which is not uncommon). But most of these contrasts probably comes from the partial pre-breeding moult, which both age classes have. So (just as in the Wagtails I wrote about) the presence of the contrast does not help ageing. You have to make an assessment of the wear in the feathers that was not included in the winter moult – are they moderately or heavily worn!? This is sometimes tough, even with the bird in your hand.”

 

 

flycatcher sp. Brett Spencer

flycatcher sp. Brett Spencer

flycatcher sp. Brett Spencer.

flycatcher sp. Brett Spencer.

 

The sex if the bird is so far a little disputatious.  Some originally thought it was what’s called a ‘brown male’ which occur more commonly in central and Western Europe.  They are greyish-brown above and not black like normal males.  They normally show a white forehead spot(s) black rump/upper tale coverts and wholly white looking inner greater coverts. Some have blacker wings and tail. This bird on several photos has greyish rump and upper tail coverts, same colour as rest of upperparts.  No white ‘male’ patch on forehead (typical insignificant female buffy patch) and white fringed (not wholly white) inner greater coverts. The wings and tail are not black and at least 1-2 median coverts have white tips. Some ‘brown males’ can have such a pattern in the greater coverts and similar forehead pattern. However they are described as ‘very rare’. No black in rump, uppertail coverts, wings or tail, indicate it’s most likely a female.

Most female like male ‘brown’ Pied Flycatcher are also described as having small white primary patches and normal amount of white on the tertials.

RECAP on why it’s most likely a female:

  • brown rump, wings and tail on apparent adult
  • white primary patch atypically large for ‘brown’ male
  • lacks white forehead spot found on most males
  • lacks wholly white looking inner greater coverts typical of males
  • white tipped median coverts typical of some females

 

 

flycatcher sp. Brett Spencer

flycatcher sp. Brett Spencer

flycatcher sp. Brett Spencer

flycatcher sp. Brett Spencer

 

What species?

Having attempted to age and sex it I think it’s a female and probably an adult.  There are several quite well known features to focus in on.  These are chiefly the pattern of white in the primary patch and the amount of white in the tail.  On this bird the white primary patch is clearly longer than the primary coverts and appears to reach to P4 (just about on perched shots and in flight shot).  The tail pattern appears to show white extending right to the tip of the tail (T6 and T5 overlapping) and a white line on the outer web with T4.  The tail pattern as interpreted with the photos fits Collared better than Pied (though it’s a pretty soft feature with much overlap). Both of those features are good for Collared and in combination seem to be at least are rare/ very rare in Pied. Furthermore if it is a female the amount (and pattern) of white in the tertials is probably too much for female Pied but OK for Collared.

Nape and rump feathers.  Some have commented on seeing a paler collar or paler nape area.  I’m not confident about this enough to comment.

flycatcher sp. showing some of pattern of white in outer tail. Martin Cade

flycatcher sp. showing some of pattern of white in outer tail. Martin Cade

RECAP: on identification features

  • apparent white in primary patch better for collared
  • apparent white in tail better for collared
  • white in tertials better for collared

So why not a Collared? I agree and defer with those with much more expertise in this area that “it doesn’t feel Collared-like to me in general plumage tone” (Ben Sheldon) or “In the best of worlds, I would have wished for a (slightly) better primary patch combined with a paler and colder grey ground colour above” (Magnus Hellström). Martin Cade also heard a typical Pied Flycatcher call coming from the vicinity of the bird, if not seeing and hearing it call simultaneously. FYI hybrids can give calls of one parent species or the other or both call types from same bird.

 

flycatcher sp. Ken Tucker

flycatcher sp. Ken Tucker

flycatcher sp. Ken Tucker

flycatcher sp. Ken Tucker

Full set of Characters

Tricky Flycatchers are identified using the fullest set of characters.  I think it’s an adult female showing some characters of Collared Flycatcher.  That might mean that it is one. Maybe it’s a hybrid. The issue of the southern Atlas and Iberian Flycatcher is real and exposes our ignorance too! You could call it just a Pied but for me the full set of characters doesn’t allow you to do that. 🙂 . That would be shoehorning it for the sake of not leaving it up in the air. However these are the ones we learn most from!  As ever have a look for yourself and contribute if you know stuff that will help.

flycatcher sp. Ken Tucker

flycatcher sp. Ken Tucker

Comments from others

Be great to hear if you disagree and why, giving examples where these set of features has been found in Pied.

Have a look at this bird which looks VERY similar and ID was left unresolved (thanks to Brett S.)