Monthly Archives: July 2014

Blue Fulmars with dark tail bands

Bob Flood and Martin Garner

.We have received several interesting responses to the posting on Atlantic Fulmars with dark subterminal tail-bands (technically subterminal because Atlantic Fulmars have narrow whitish tips to tail feathers).

Atlantic (2 to the left) and Pacific Fulmar (3 to the right) tails by Ian Lewington. From 'Frontiers in Birding'

Atlantic (2 to the left) and Pacific Fulmar (3 to the right) tails by Ian Lewington. From ‘Frontiers in Birding’

 

,

Brett Richards has recorded similar birds from Flamborough as follows: On 4 January 2009, seven Blue Fulmars were seen. One had a very dark, almost blackish fairly narrow subterminal tail-band, and this was the darkest part of the plumage. On 5 March 2012, eight Blue Fulmars were seen. One had dark/dusky tail corners. So, it seems these Arctic breeders with dark subterminal tail-bands make it to the UK. Beware headland watchers!

Atlantic Blue Fulmar with dark in tail, Spitsbergen June 2012, Darryl Spittle

Atlantic Blue Fulmar with dark in tail, Spitsbergen June 2012, Darryl Spittle

Darryl Spittle found a photo of an Atlantic Fulmar with a partial subterminal tail-band in his fulmar photos taken in Spitsbergen in June 2012.

Blue Fulmar showing dark in tail, Spitsbergen. Image copyright Hadoram Shirihai © Tubenoses Project

Blue Fulmar showing dark in tail, Spitsbergen. Image copyright Hadoram Shirihai © Tubenoses Project

,

We also heard from Hadoram Shirihai. In summers 2004–8 he made a census of plumage-types across much of the main breeding areas, concentrating on Iceland, Jan Mayen, Bear Island, Svalbard, and the Arctic northeast Canada. In this survey he also noticed that intermediate and dark morphs can have adark subterminal tail-band. He noted, as we did in our photographs and video, that the subterminal tail-band is variable; narrow, wide, or only on some feathers and may be asymmetrical. Although Hadoram does not have his notes with him, he seems to recall at least c 5 % of the birds in some locations exhibited this feature, but it was most frequently observed in Svalbard, with some as far south as Jan Mayen and Bear Is. He agrees that these birds are not Pacific Fulmars.

Blue Fulmar, Spitsbergen. This is about as pale Blue as it's possible to get and still identify!  Image copyright Hadoram Shirihai © Tubenoses Project

Blue Fulmar, Spitsbergen. This is about as pale Blue as it’s possible to get and still identify! Image copyright Hadoram Shirihai © Tubenoses Project

.

Blue and non Blue Fulmars off Scarborough. July 214 Justin Carr

Blue and non Blue Fulmars off Scarborough. July 214 Justin Carr

Possibilities currently under investigation by Bob and Hein van Grouw include: ancestral gene from Pacific Fulmar, gene recently passed on by Pacific Fulmar, aberration in the way pigment granules are distributed (inheritable or not inheritable). So, even the thought-to-be familiar Atlantic Fulmar is in fact full of mysteries and puzzles (of which there are more to come)!

Video of dark-tailed bird which sparked the latest explorations:

 

Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus

One of the BIG three

Well done to all who had a go. Last weekends wacky weekend warbler was the giant Clamorous Reed Warbler, which along with Great Reed Warbler and Thick-billed Warbler form the big three (at least in the old fieldguides and old taxonomy ;).

And the butt-ugly mammla- Yees and Egyptian Mongoose. Both photographed at Ma’agan Michael in November 2013.

Here’s the Clamorous along with some pond side friends: same place, same day.

Clamorous Reed Warbler 1 Clamorous Reed Warbler 2 Clamorous Reed Warbler 3

.

Smyrna Kingfisher- one of three showy kingfisher species on site

Smyrna Kingfisher- one of three showy kingfisher species on site

first winter Night Heron with bits of moult going on

first winter Night Heron with bits of moult going on

smart looking Little Egret

smart looking Little Egret

and ending with my next planned find at Flamborough before the summer is out please... A Great White Egret

and ending with my next planned find at Flamborough before the summer is out please… A Great White Egret

 

.

NG Birders on getting involved with the Migration Festival

Spurn: 5th-7th September 2014

Matt Bruce on behalf of the ‘Next Generation Birders’.

NGB Aurora

Hi Martin,
1) What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Migration’ (in relation to birds)
The first thing I think of when I hear the word migration definitely depends upon the season. Spring brings to mind the first Hirundines and Warblers of the year, the excitement of hearing the first Willow Warblers and Swifts! Autumn is all about the Wader passage with any muddy field having the possibility of migrating Waders dropping in. The geese and thrushes are not bad either, coming in to spend the winter here in their thousands, flying over head, often heard before they are seen, it is pretty impressive.
variedenemies
2) Did you come to the Migration Festival last year?
Yes – I attended the 1st ever Migration Festival, and found the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable, despite the weather not dropping a “fall” as many hoped. The Sea Watching was my highlight, with an incredible skua passage, and witnessing a flock of snipe in active migration make land fall from their continental breeding grounds! The evening events were enjoyable and the atmosphere brilliant down the Crown and Anchor. I would recommend it to any birder as a great way to spend an Autumn weekend.
A few of the many 'Next Generation Birders'.  They will be coming and hanging out at the Spurn Migration Festival. Come and join in all the action and meet up with old and new friends.

A few of the many ‘Next Generation Birders’. They will be coming and hanging out at the Spurn Migration Festival. Come and join in all the action and meet up with old and new friends.

3) What will you be doing/ bringing to this years festival.
This year, many Next Generation Birders will be present to enjoy the birding, but also to meet and talk to other birders. I am sure many OGB’s (Older Generation Birders) have plenty of knowledge and stories to pass onto us. We will also be selling some of Jonnie Fisk’s artwork, and creating a video diary of the event for the NGB blog.
Regards,
Matt Bruce

Don’t miss out:

To Book :

Please call 01904 659570 or emailSpurn Migration Festival one Yorkshire Wildlife Trust info@ywt.org.uk.

The Spurn Migration Festival runs from the 5th – 7th September 2014 and the prices are as follows: £14 for a day ticket, £21 for the weekend ticket and £8 for the evening lecture with delicious hog roast.

NGB logo transparent

Juvenile Caspian Gull off Flamborough

26th July 2014

Martin Garner and Craig Thomas

That was fun! An early morning seawatch gave no reason for anything other than low expectation. As I am a keenly enjoying the patchwork challenge I till needed Arctic Skua and Mediterranean Gull, both of which are ‘about’.

Hey Mr Fisherman- that's a flippin' Caspian Gull flying in- a corking full juvenile!

Hey Mr Fisherman- that’s a flippin’ Caspian Gull flying in- a corking full juvenile!

Not long after I started watching, Craig Thomas arrived. 2 fishing boats were pulling in the large gulls. We were soon onto what looked like a classic 2cy (first summer) Baltic Gull. More on that soon. Attention now focused on the gulls more, around 6:45 I clocked a juvenile  gull flying in with striking white rump and black tail band. Clearly looking a michahellis/cachinanns type through binoculars, I drew Craig’s attention. He was soon on it and through ‘scope called pale-looking underwings. Swinging my ‘scope around, anticipation rising… there the whitish underwing, silly long bill (already developing pale base) overall small head and loooooong primaries with somewhat plain (no holly leaf) warm (slightly rusty washed) scapulars and wing coverts and broad white thumbnail on otherwise all dark tertials…A  juvenile Caspian Gull- BOOM!

I never tire of these. We then had good 15 minutes as it loafed around the bota before flying into Bridlington Bay. The 3 or 4th juvenile I think this year reported so far in Britain, all in the last week. This one well north of the rest (all in Suffolk I think).

Craig scored extra points by locating it again late afternoon with John Beaumont on the rocks off Sewerby. Just need to refind that Baltic Gull now!

 

Short video- not easy and all the usual excuses. You can pause it to see features like the underwing

A few photos to give you an idea of features. Not the greatest, but hopefully of interest.

Yep. It's looking really good for one

Yep. It’s looking really good for one

arrgh unbelievably close and you're not even looking!

arrgh unbelievably close and you’re not even looking!

.

Craig managed nice shot on the water

Craig managed nice shot on the water

juvenile b Caspian Gull 26 July 2014 Flamb - Copy juvenile d Caspian Gull 26 July 2014 Flamb juvenile Caspian Gull 26 July 2014 Flamb - Copyand finally at Sewerby on the rocks later on

juvenile Caspian Gull by Craig Thomas

juvenile Caspian Gull by Craig Thomas

 

 

Juvenile Caspian Gulls are aboot:

What do they really look like?

With a juvenile found yesterday off Flamborough and 3-4 in the last week in Suffolk, they have ‘arrived’ in Britain and NW Europe from breeding ground further east. They are undoubtedly overlooked. So here’s a refresher on what the most elegant of the large gulls looks like in first flight.
 

by Chris Gibbins

Image

Juvenile Caspian Gulls (and indeed Yellow-legged Gulls) are already independent and on the move.  A key trait of both Caspian and Yellow-Legged Gulls is that juveniles disperse rapidly away from their natal colony and, in many cases, they roam widely.  So we can expect and should be on the lookout for them here in Britain, even now in mid July.

The problem is that juveniles are very different to the first winter birds we are used to seeing over the winter months.  Due to a combination of moult, wear and fading, first winter birds are generally rather striking creatures.  In July and August, juveniles are different, being crisp and fresh, with no (or extremely limited) moult and they generally look rather dark on the head and body – quite unlike the image we have of this species. I’ve just come back from Azerbaijan, where our objective was to learn more about Caspian Gulls (I was with Visa Rauste and Hannu Koskinen, friends and fellow gull enthusiasts from Finland).  Being on the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan is ideal for such studies, as it is far from the hybrid zone that now exists in western Europe; we can therefore be sure that the Caspian Gulls in Azerbaijan do not have any Herring or Yellow-legged Gull genes, as many of the birds in Europe undoubtedly do.  So just what do these ‘real’ juvenile Casps look like?

This post is meant simply to illustrate what birders searching for juvenile  ‘Casps’ should be looking for at this time of year – it is not analytical, merely a photo record that I hope is a useful reference point (few images of juveniles from the Caspian heartland of the species’ range have ever been published).  The main thing that should be evident from the selection of images that I’ve chosen is that they are very variable, in terms of both structure and plumage, and many are rather dark.

Differences between the individuals featured below are evident both on the ground and in flight.  On the ground notice that some have classic Caspian jizz, but others do not –in fact resemble Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  On the ground also notice differences in the greater covert patterns between these individuals, and also the tertials. More especially, notice how dark and well streaked some are on the head and body.  Juvenile Casps are not white. In flight, notice differences in the pattern on the inner primaries – some darker birds are very like Yellow-legged Gulls while paler individuals have silvery inner webs to the inner 5 or so primaries, with pale patches, stippling and a darker feather tip. Most importantly of all, note that, contrary to more or less everything that is published, they can have well marked (and hence dark looking) underwings at this age.

So, if you encounter an odd looking juvenile gull in the coming weeks, don’t write off Caspian just because it is dark/well streaked and/or does not have the pure white underwings you were expecting – real Caspian Gulls from the Caspian can be dark.  Such features are not necessarily a sign that you have a hybrid. Expect the unexpected.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

ImageImage

ImageImage

Image

ImageImage

Image

This final bird shows classic structure and plumage; simply remember that not all are like this.

Does Patch Birding Make You Grumpy?

The Month of June

Mark Lewis What is it about June? Granted, the end of the month can be a bit quiet, but at the beginning of June we are very much in the thick of it, in terms of opportunities to find rare birds. Why then, does it bring such negativity out of Patchwork Challengers?!   Back in June 2013, as well as a smattering of classic late spring scarcities, June provided a Bonaparte’s Gull, and up to the point of writing, the only Paddyfield Warbler that’s ever been recorded on a PWC patch.  Most notable though, was a large number of people who seemed to be a little dispirited by it all… 16 White-billed Diver Fast forward to June 2014, and we have a similar situation. There were some great birds available, for example the now regular Glossy Ibis, as well as Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Citrine Wagtail, White-billed Diver, and best of all, a Pallid Swift at Portland. In spite of all this, the general trend of reports that made their way into our scoresheet was not particularly positive!

Pallid Swift by Miki Vigiano

Pallid Swift by Miki Vigiano

Now let’s get one thing straight – I’m not accusing Patchwork Challenge contestants of being negative – far from it, but when your highlights column frequently contains expressions such as ‘yawn…’, ‘sigh’, and something utterly unprintable from a certain Irish contestant (you know who you are!), it makes you wonder if there is something going on.   I think we can speculate as to why June brings us down without looking into it too deeply. I think it’s simply because it comes after April and May. The additions to the patch list come thick and fast over these two months, and they are both crammed with rarity potential. Then, after about ten days in June, it all seems to dry up. It feels like there is nothing new to look at, and it feels like the autumn is a long way away. It feels like time to dust off the flower guide, or the moth book…

by Igor Maiorano

by Igor Maiorano

First of all, is this actually a thing? Is there an increase in ‘negativity’ in June or am I just bored and looking for it in others? Well, the graph below shows the number of scores entered for each month, and the number of those for which there was either a completely blank highlights and best finds column (‘blanks’), or, the only comment in either was negative (‘negs’). graph 1 OK, so it’s not a massive difference, but there’s clearly a higher proportion of negatives than in the four preceding months. If you look a little more closely, you can see that this increase is made up of an increase in the number of blanks, but also there is a sharp increase in ‘negs’ as well. graph 2 So what does all this mean? Well, lets hope it doesn’t mean that Patch Birding makes you grumpy! I’m sure it’s a result of all the effort and hope we invest in April and May – but is there anything that can be done to beat the summer blues?

Summer blues?                              Fulmar in Norwegian is called ´havhest´, literally meaning ´sea horse´. This is the dark summer blue horse.

Summer blues?
Fulmar in Norwegian is called ´havhest´, literally meaning ´sea horse´. This is the dark summer blue horse.

It seems there might be. There might not be a lot in it, but it seems like the green birders, those who’s score is accumulated without the aid of a car, seem to be a little less likely to be negative than everyone else in the spring. Green birders seem to be very negative in the winter (starting in February on the graphs, as we didn’t collect any ‘green’ info in January) but as the spring progresses the greenies ‘negativity’ is consistently below what would be expected if the proportions of green to non green scores were taken into account. graph 3 I wonder why the change. Could it be something as fundamental as the weather? Could it be something to do with those getting a bit more exercise feeling like all of the effort has been a little more worthwhile? Who knows. Perhaps, after all this waffle and pseudoscience, the first graph gives the most important message – and that’s that the ‘negatives’ are always a small proportion of the scores given. So there may be some fluctuations, but generally, we all enjoy patch birding! It certainly keeps me positive. ,

Fingers crossed there are some birds to write about next time though…;-)

you never know... the right time of year is from now on for a male Black-headed Wagtail. They look rather green-headed in August

you never know… the right time of year is from now on for a male Black-headed Wagtail. They look rather green-headed in August

 

Spurge Hawk-moth

Caterpillar

An old write-up, reposted  just in case I ever find one 😉

Oh wow oh wow oh wow

I know these were also reported as Steve Job’s dying words. I also use these kind of words with some unexpected encounters with nature. I did with these as correctly identified by some blog followers. Caterpillars of the Spurge Hawk-moth just look amazing. It’s very a rare as a flying moth in Britain and only one record of the caterpillar. For more see here.

I saw some on Linosa, thanks to Andrea Corso who was ‘grazing them’.

.

.