Monthly Archives: October 2014

Eastern Crowned Warbler- a bit closer

Martyn Sidwell

…has sent in these images of the Eastern Crowned Warbler taken this afternoon (31st October). Much closer than some of my shots yesterday they showcase beautifully the bird’s features. Nice one Martyn. Has anyone could got recordings of the bird’s call? It has been quite vocal.

Made me remember the Eastern Crowned in Jochen’s garden.

Eastern-Crowned-Warbler-19.1

Eastern-Crowned-Warbler-16.1

Eastern Crowned Warbler

30th October 2014, Brotton

Ian Kendal lives just fives minutes away from the copse of trees at the Hunley Golf Course entrance. He doesn’t normally check it much. This was just a morning walk with his collie.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day: phones calls with Ian (who I went to Hatfield Poly with in 1982/3!) and Dave Aitken, ‘the twitch’ with Messrs Baines, Leadley and Deighton and the assembled Yorkshire and beyond birding contingent.

I think Ian might go there a little more often after finding this. Awesome once-in-a-lifetime find.

A few photos showing some features. Sure loads better to come. Hopefully will get seen again today.

stunning head with dark lateral crown stripes big white supercilium and wholly orange lower mandible

stunning head with dark lateral crown stripes big white supercilium and wholly orange lower mandible

two wing bars and pale central crown strip limited to rear of crown

two wing bars and pale central crown strip limited to rear of crown

yellow undertail coverts just discernible contrasting with otherwise essentially white underparts

yellow undertail coverts just discernible contrasting with otherwise essentially white underparts

 

colours captured better on Rich Baines camera

colours captured better on Rich Baines camera

lovely close up of head and bill by Martyn Sidwell. Thanks!

lovely close up of head and bill by Martyn Sidwell. Thanks!

 

 

Chinese Pond Heron in breeding plumage

in October (and November!)

Dave Gandy

… has written in following his excellent contributions to the discussion on the Chinese Pond Heron in Kent earlier this year. On his local patch at Bangkok earlier this month he came across a Chinese Pond Heron. Interesting thing is that it’s in (almost) full breeding plumage and it’s in October. His bird immediately brought to Dave’s mind an adult breeding Chinese Pond Heron seen in Britain in October and November 2004.

The bird was not accepted as being wild, a chief component being its ‘out-of-season’ plumage. While we are not saying that the 2004 bird was wild, it is intriguing that such ‘summery’ Chinese Pond Heron’s can indeed occur, in the wild, in October.

You can read the comment in the BBRC report HERE

The comments from the 34th report of the BOURC on the record are:

“Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus

Adult in full breeding plumage, Norfolk, 31 October 2004. Identification was accepted, but the bird was considered to have been of captive origin and the species was assigned to Category E. This individual was also reported from East Dean, Hampshire, 13 November 2004.”

Chinese Pond Heron, Bangkok, Thailand, 18th October 2014. Dave Gandy

Chinese Pond Heron, Bangkok, Thailand, 18th October 2014. Dave Gandy

Chinese Pond Heron in breeding plumage, Bangkok, Thailand 15th October 2014. Dave Gandy

Chinese Pond Heron in breeding plumage, Bangkok, Thailand 15th October 2014. Dave Gandy

 

Postscript:

26th November 2014. 

Dave Gandy wrote in. Here’s the same adult Chinese Pond Heron at the end of November in full summer plumage. No sign of entering winter plumage- indeed seemingly heading in the opposite direction.

Recent weeks ahem also brought encounters with summer plumaged Red-necked Stint and a returning Curlew Sandpiper in summer plumage.

Thank you Dave.

 

 

Chinese Pond Heron in summer plumage on 24th November 2014 , Bangkok, Thailand by Dave Gandy

Chinese Pond Heron in summer plumage on 24th November 2014 , Bangkok, Thailand by Dave Gandy

.

 

The Arctic comes to my Garden

Snow Bunting and Little Auk

A Thursday evening (23rd Oct.) walk out with Ebony, our collie cross bought me lovely views of these two birds. I wasn’t expecting to see much and came back a very happy chappy. It got me reflecting on my love of the arctic. I can’t go there all the time so sometimes the bird from there come to me. I know- not quite in my garden- but close enough.

Snow Bunting

This is an  individual of the nominate form nivalis quickly recognized by the obvious paler greyish mantle area contrasting with darker browner scapulars. Appears to be a first winter male. We get two taxa each winter in Britain. The nominate form as here is considered to be the less common of the two according to information from ringing and birds assigned to subspecies in the hand. They could come from Scandinavia, Svalbard or Greenland.

Then there is the darker taxon insulae from Iceland. Identifying Snow Bunting to their correct age, sex and race can be both challenging and rewarding. Behind each birds lies a fascinating narrative from a species that can survive and thrive in one of the harshest environments on the planet. Taxonomy of Snow Buntings and MacKay’s Bunting of Beringia is a fascinating subject with the Siberian vlasowae of disputed range and validity. I don’t really mind. Birds with that Siberian characters look amazing whatever! I did an old post HERE and there is a paper HERE  (though he used the darkest possible Snow Buntings  specimens to make his point.) Hmm..

For ageing and sexing on this one amount of white in wing, pattern of underwings, white in primary coverts, shape and pattern of tail feathers.

 

Snow Bunting 6 25 Oct 14 1 Snow Bunting 7 25 Oct 14 1 Snow Bunting 1 25 Oct 14 1 Snow Bunting 4 25 Oct 14 1 Snow Bunting 5 25 Oct 14 1

 

Siberian Snow Buntings

And I hope one day in Britain to find one that looks like this. The Siberian form vlasowae.

There’s material for another book there…

snow-bunting-vlasowae-type-1

above- male Siberian Snow Bunting- ssp vlasowae, Vardo, Varanger, March 2012.

Little Auk

Then directly below the cliff top on which the Snow Bunting was feeding, on a becalmed sea, sat this little chap. All the way from the High Arctic.

A very pleasant encounter indeed 🙂

little auk 3 little auk 4

 

 

Hybrids, morphs, mutants or just Dolphins with a dark-side?

Dan Brown

Ever encountered a dolphin with a dark-side? Careful scrutiny of pods of Common Dolphins occasionally reveals dark individuals, but what are they?

If you’ve ever paid much attention to Common Dolphins you may have been lucky enough to see a dark individual amongst a pod. But what are they?? There are a number of documented records of these dolphins and back in mid-September I was lucky enough to bump into one on the sailing from Harris to St Kilda.

Common Dolphin: A classic individual showing a creamy-peach thoracic patch.

Common Dolphin: A classic individual showing a creamy-peach thoracic patch.

Much like Mallards, Gulls, chickens, & bonobos, dolphins will have a go at humping just about anything! There are a few instances of hybridisation amongst captive Dolphins and recently the first wild instance in the UK of a Risso’s x Bottlenose Dolphin off the Western Isles:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-29541605

Clymene Dolphin is also likely to have arisen as a species through hybridisation, and there has been talk that these dark Common Dolphins are also hybrids but their structure doesn’t point to any other species influence.

Common Dolphin: melanistic individual showing the dark thoracic patch, darker pectoral fins, and a darker lower flank stripe

Common Dolphin: melanistic individual showing the dark thoracic patch, darker pectoral fins, and a darker lower flank stripe

It seems most likely that these animals are simply melanistic individuals. Given the rarity of this morphotype it would probably be incorrect to call them morphs (in generally >1% of a population has to show the features associated with being a morph rather than a result of a mutation).

Common Dolphin: A melanistic individual between Harris & St Kilda

Common Dolphin: A melanistic individual between Harris & St Kilda

In the case of this individual and other observed in the North Atlantic (eg http://cotf5.blogspot.com.es/2014/01/day-4-blow.html) the dark colouration is often restricted to the thoracic patch, which is normally a creamy-peach colour. Other variations including notably pale individuals have been recorded with animals around New Zealand well documented.

This colouration can often lead to confusion with the similar Striped Dolphin, however, structure and behaviour should be enough to rule this species out. Striped Dolphin is a compact and highly energetic dolphin and generally found in deeper oceanic water. Given good enough views the distinctive lateral blaze is also characteristic.

Striped Dolphin: A small, compact, highly energetic dolphin, found in deep oceanic waters

Striped Dolphin: A small, compact, highly energetic dolphin, found in deep oceanic waters

Next time your crossing Biscay, or out in the Atlantic keep an eye open for aberrant dolphins, the more information we have on them the better!

Wilson’s Snipe or not?

Corvo,  Azores

Polish birder Radak Gwóźdź has been in touch. He and his mate Martin Solowiej were on Corvo, Azores in the 2nd week of October. Classic migration/arrival time for Wilson’s Snipe- and they photographed a snipe sp.- only views from underneath. Both Wilson’s and Common Snipe have been found on the Azores, so which was this one?

I’ve already expressed an opinion to Radak and solicited a response from snipe King Ash Fisher. What do you think?

Gallinago5_Corvo_Caldera_03102014_MRS_4882.JPi Gallinago5_Corvo_Caldera_03102014_MRS_4885.JPGi Gallinago5_Corvo_Caldera_03102014_MRS_4871.JmPG

Lots more on ID of Wilson’s, Common and Faeroe Snipe in the Challenge Series: AUTUMN

Migrant Moths

Autumn – One of the best times of the year for catching Migrant Moths
By Tony Davison

Trapping rare moths seems to be a topical and exciting subject at this time. As Birders are keen to see rare vagrant and rare migrant birds during the autumn months, so too are Moth-ers keen to trap vagrant immigrant moths. The parallels in the two subjects are incredible and it never ceases to amaze me how such delicate insects can travel hundreds of miles and drop into a moth trap, usually in excellent condition, simply Mind Blowing. Similar to the way that the small Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas’s Warbler and Goldcrest (The “Sprites”) arrive on our shores after a strong Easterly blow. These birds travel vast distances and again, Mind Blowing..

Convolvulus 021614Convolvulous Hawkmoth – A very large and common migrant moth from southern Europe – It may now be breeding in southern England and often does on the Isles of Scilly.

Over the years a wide variety of rare moths have been recorded in Britain. Usually the months of September and October are the best. Most arrive from Southern Europe and the Tropics and their arrival usually coincides with warm southerly high pressure systems, coming up from North Africa, the Azores, Canary Islands and Madeira. Murky weather with fine drizzle and south, southeasterly winds can be superb.

Antigastra catalaunalis 06 116Antigastra catalaunalis – A vagrant/accidental migrant from the Tropics and Southern Europe

Palpita vitrealis 06 161Palpita vitrealis (Olive Tree Pearl) – A scarce migrant from Southern Europe

There is no greater thrill than finding a rare migrant moth in the trap. It can sometimes be a MEGA, or even a first for Britain no less.

Hodebertia testalis 06 149 copyHodebertia testalis – This specimen was a first for Britain. Trapped on St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly on 18th October 2006. This individual arrived at a time of high migrant moth activity. I was fortunate to see and photograph the specimen on 19th October, before it was sent off to the Natural History Museum, for confirmation of it’s identity. In “mothing” terms, a MEGA, an awesome moment and it doesn’t get much better than this.

One of the best places in Britain for trapping rare migrant moths is on the Isles of Scilly and over the years I have been fortunate to have caught a number of good immigrant moths whilst on holiday on the small island of St. Agnes.

Merveille du Jour 027613Merveille du Jour – This specimen was certainly the “Wonder of the Day”. I found it in my trap on 15th October 2006, whilst moth trapping during my holiday week on St.Agnes, it was a first record for the Isles of Scilly.

Vestal 06 164Vestal – Pink individuals indicate long distance migration from warm climates.

Hymenia recurvalis 06 236  Hymenia recurvalis – A rare autumn migrant from the tropics. This specimen was the 2nd record for St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly – October 2006.

Old World Webworm 06 226Helula undalis (Old World Webworm) A rare migrant from the tropics

Delicate 037615Delicate – A common migrant often arriving in large numbers – It may breed in Southern and SW Britain.

Gem 081616Gem – A scarce migrant from Southern Europe and North Africa. The Gem can be an indicator of good migrant activity.

The arrival of migrant moths are not limited to our of islands and coastal areas. Many get trapped by moth enthusiasts from a number of inland counties. For example, from my small South Derbyshire garden, I have caught a variety of good migrant moths over the years. A second record of Ni Moth for Derbyshire, several Rusty Dot Pearl, Small Mottled Willow, Vestal and Scarce Bordered Straw, all vagrants to my county.

ni-moth3Ni Moth – This specimen was a complete surprise, I nearly passed it off as a Silver Y. A second record for Derbyshire.

Scarce Bordered Straw 16th Sept06 025 Scarce Bordered Straw – During the autumn of 2006, an unprecedented arrival of this species occurred in Britain. During this invasion, the species was added to the Derbyshire list

Small Mottled Willow 06 112Small Mottled Willow – A common migrant but a scarce immigrant to Derbyshire

Rusty Dot Pearl 9158593Udea ferrugalis (Rusty Dot Pearl) trapped in my garden as recent as 16th October 2014

Dark Sword-grass 06 055Dark Sword Grass – A common migrant that can turn up anywhere, during any month.

Crimson Speckled 06 268Crimson Speckled – One of the most sort after rare moths.

In recent years, moth trapping has become an increasingly popular hobby, especially amongst Birders. There are possibly more people “Moth Trapping” now than in the last 20 years. The status of Britain’s moths has recently been published in a superb book by Butterfly Conservation. Millions of records of moths are now held by the National Moth Recording Scheme (NMRS), and a comprehensive picture is now beginning to emerge. This can only be achieved by the many Moth Recorders submitting their records. As more people become involved in moth trapping and recording, the knowledge of our moth population and our ability to conserve and protect it, will undoubtedly improve.