Monthly Archives: January 2015

Bird Table Extraordinaire in Ontario, Canada

Ontario FeederWatch Cam

How many species can you see?

This is fun watching especially f you are a European birder. Evening Grosbeaks, Mealy and Arctic Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks (the North American variety), Blue Jays and Grouse! Very cool if you’re curled up of an evening.

Well Done Cornell!l Live stream go >>>HERE<<<

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To see the recordings and live stream go   >>>HERE<<<

 

Green Warbler- 1st for Finland

20th May 2012 

Mika is celebrating as his Green Warbler has just been accepted by the Finnish Records Committee. It’s not news but certainly a winter heart warmer. Green Warbler, ‘nitidus’ of Transcaspia, Caucasus, NW Iran, NE Turkey etc remains extremely rare in NW Europe with just one British records (Isles of Scilly – Sept/Oct 1983) and a handful from other countries. So here’s a reminder of what one might look like… on my patch this spring 🙂

Green Warbler green_warbler_birdingfrontiers_MBR_6153

Green Warbler, Phylloscopus nitidus 20 May 2012 Lågskär, Kaukaasianuunilintu.  First record for Finland. Mika Bruun.

Mika Bruun

Lågskär is located at the southern end of the Åland archipelago, approximately 45 km south of Mariehamn. This traditional birding station has been active since the 1950’s, although nowadays its use has been decreasing because of the remote location and poor living conditions (no electricity). It has been the location for several rare bird observations for Finland. In total 13 new species for Finland been found here. The 1st was a Pine Bunting 1968, then Pechora Pipit 1972, Blyth´s Pipit and Swainson´s Thrush 1974, Masked Shrike 1982, last was a Crag Martin in 1988. I hoped to find a new species for the country myself as I disembarked for the island on the 17 of May with three of my friends. For one reason or another I bought a pricey “toasting” champagne to celebrate the new species I would find on the trip, as I jokingly suggested before arriving.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 12.29.35The Island of Lågskär, Finland in May 2012

On the third day of the trip, as the southeastern wind still blew warm, the morning began ominously: a Greenish Warbler song early in the morning, or at least so we supposed. I didn’t hear the bird and began looking for it on the other side of the island, because we felt most of the birds were heading that way.  I found some shelter and almost immediately heard a Greenish Warbler-like sound, at the same time slightly wondering the vagueness of it. Right away I found a bird with wing-bar and began taking photos. I only saw the bird trough the lens, and was pretty certain it was a Greenish Warbler as that was the bird I was looking for. However my first observation was of strongly yellow face, hmm. But the bird being extremely busy I had to put all of my effort for searching the bird with the view finder. The strong clear white wing-bar (I even saw two wing-bars briefly) also raised my suspicions at one point, but nevertheless I still focused on photographing. After a few encounters the bird vanished into the canopy and I couldn’t find it anymore. I checked through the photos but wasn’t satisfied with their quality, still supposing I was shooting a Greenish Warbler.

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I forgot the bird almost immediately as I found something new to photograph. After some time I met the others. I told them about the yellow Greenish Warbler and it caused some wonder, but we didn’t look through the photos. That didn’t happen until the evening as we gathered together. Tapio Aalto raised the question concerning the Greenish Warbler and we instantly realized what we were looking at, a Green Warbler! A quick check from the books confirmed our assumptions. It became even clearer to me when I listened the call and the singing, and couldn’t understand how I didn’t grasp what it was at the time. I had, after all, seen hundreds of Greenish Warblers and dozens of Green Warblers. We headed back to the spot at once where the bird had later shown itself to Jari Helstola. He couldn’t identify the bird at that time either, and supposed it was a Greenish Warbler.

Green Warbler

Unfortunately we couldn’t find the bird no longer and neither the next morning despite hard efforts. During the night and early morning I was sending pictures to my friends. We quickly got some good help with the identifying and the bird was confirmed to be a Green Warbler. Fortunately, during my many trips through the jungle, I have formed the habit of first shooting the bird and only after that looking at it if time remains. In this case it was rewarded by a new species to the country.

Mika Bruun

bruun@tarsiger.com

P.S. a write up also appears in Birding World 25.6 with other photos.

Comparing spring Greenish and Green Warbler

all photos Mika Bruun

greenish_warbler_2birdingfrontiers_MBR_6996Green WarblerUpper two photos. Greenish Warbler above, Green warbler below. Both taken in May 2012 on Lågskär

and a bit closer….

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green_warbler_birdingfrontiers_MBR_6153Upper two photos. Greenish Warbler above, Green Warbler below. Both taken in May 2012 on Lågskär.

Same May, different colourful species

While celebrating and reminiscing, that was the same May 2012 in which, just 9 days after Mika’s Green Warbler, this Bobby dazzler popped up in front of a couple of us at Spurn.

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Bring on the Spring 2015!

Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Candidate on the Isle of White

Dear Martin,

I live on the Isle of Wight and was out birding with my pal Andy Butler on Sunday (Jan 25th) when we came across the Wagtail attached at the derelict Atherfield Holiday camp, a couple of miles West of Blackgang in South Wight.

Somewhat unexpectedly I must admit.

I was interested to read about the possible Eastern Yellow Wag from Spurn on your excellent website but I have scoured the net for pictures of adults in Winter with no success, or at least nothing which resembles our bird. We only heard it call twice which was a single “tsleep” each time, not much like nominate yellow at all.

The call was not the “sweet” longer single note of Yellow Wagtail and seemed a bit disyllabic and truncated, but again we only heard it twice. I listened to a fair few on the Xeno-Canto site and it most resembled one of the Citrine recordings.

I’ve been birding since I was a small nipper in the late ’50’s and twitching since 69/70 so would be most grateful for any thoughts you or your team might have.
The pictures were taken by Andy, you may have also seen his super shot of one of our Bee Eaters throwing a bee into the air in the National Daily papers last Summer.

Kind regards, Pete Campbell

yellow wag 2a

yellow wag 1aYellow wagtail 4aaAll photos above by Andy Butler

Mammal of the Month: Mountain Hare

Dan Brown

The Mountain Hare is a beautiful and charismatic mammal, symbolic of bleak upland landscapes in the UK, yet often overlooked in favour of larger carnivores or cuter, cuddlier mammals. It most definitely deserves more appreciation, protection, and far less persecution 

A new year and a new feature – ‘Mammal of the Month’. The concept isn’t too difficult to grasp, a featured mammal from the UK or Western Palearctic each month with a bit of info on ID (where necessary) status, where and how to see it, and conservation. Feel free to request a species, though I will try and keep them representative of the season.

Winter in the Scottish uplands can be seriously hard going, and there are very few animals that stick it out but the Mountain Hare is one. The white winter pelage and their ability to sit motionless for hours can make detecting them almost impossible. Photo: Chris Townsend (www.wisebirding.co.uk )

Winter in the Scottish uplands can be seriously hard going, and there are very few animals that stick it out but the Mountain Hare is one. The white winter pelage and their ability to sit motionless for hours can make detecting them almost impossible. Photo: Chris Townend (www.wisebirding.co.uk )

So to kick off it feels very appropriate, given the weather, to start with the Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus). A brilliant and charismatic species that frequently goes under the radar of naturalist and suffers massively at the hands of land managers and keepers. In the UK they occur throughout the higher areas of Scotland (population approx 360,000), and have been introduced into England where they are still present in the Peak District (although the population may only number 500). Introduced populations in North Wales have all become extinct. In Ireland they are distributed throughout, from sea-level to the highest peaks, whilst on the continent they are distributed across northern Europe, a range that extends right across to the Pacific. Further south they are restricted only to high ground (up to 3000m) in the Alps.

Robins brilliant shot nicely illustrates the amazingly dense, and long haired paws (https://www.facebook.com/RobinHoskynsPhotography and http://www.robinhoskyns.co.uk/)

Robins brilliant shot nicely illustrates the amazingly dense, and long haired paws (https://www.facebook.com/RobinHoskynsPhotography and http://www.robinhoskyns.co.uk/)

The mortality among hares is very high, if you’ve ever driven along the A9 you cant help but see road-kill Mountain hares every few miles. However if they make it to adulthood their dispersal abilities are pretty remarkable. One animal was recorded moving 300km! Whilst generally solitary, they can aggregate into groups in excess of 100 animals during the winter months. Mountain Hares are predominantly active at night, and encounters in the day are often of animals flushed from a sheltering spot in a peat hag, or from under a boulder.

Mountain Hares are well known in the UK for their transformation between summer and winter coats. They are perfectly adapted to cold snowy winters, moulting in a thick white coat, whilst in summer this white coat is lost and replaced with a schisty-brown pelage, better suited to the earthen and rocky tones of the Scottish peaks during the ‘warmer’ months. Interestingly very few of the Irish animals moult into a white winter coat. Camouflage is crucial in Scotland where Mountain Hares form a substantial part of the diet of Golden Eagles.

The transition between Winter, Spring and Summer can be a tough one for Mountain Hares as their perfect camouflage takes a while to adjust to the receding snow lines. Photo: Robin Hoskyns (http://www.robinhoskyns.co.uk/) and (https://www.facebook.com/RobinHoskynsPhotography)

The transition between Winter, Spring and Summer can be a tough one for Mountain Hares as their perfect camouflage takes a while to adjust to the receding snow lines. Photo: Robin Hoskyns (http://www.robinhoskyns.co.uk/) and (https://www.facebook.com/RobinHoskynsPhotography)

A summer Mountain Hare can be equally difficult to spot as a winter animal. The white tail is a dead giveaway though!

A summer Mountain Hare can be equally difficult to spot as a winter animal. The white tail is a dead giveaway though!

Mountain Hares and Grouse moors have an intricate relationship and one which frequently betrays the hares. Hares prefer the areas of recently burnt heather adjacent to longer heather for cover, identical to the optimal requirements for grouse management. The decline in grouse moors has had a strong negative effect on the abundance of Mountain Hares, and this coupled with the frequent intensive persecution of hares by estate managers to reduce competition with grouse, can cause local declines in the population. Raptor Persecution Scotland have blogged about this issue on several occasions with the latest last autumn:

https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/mountain-hares-massacred-on-lammermuir-grouse-moors/

There’s even a petition currently circulating endeavoring to end these intensive culls:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/protect-the-mountain-hare-3

Indeed even away from intensive grouse moors I’ve been told that in the 1990s and early 2000s there was a concerted effort, at least on some of the Argyll hills, to reduce Mountain Hare and Rabbit numbers. The cull was so successful that both species are now extinct in the areas I’ve worked and maybe not coincidentally Golden Eagles at certain territories have failed to produce any young for at least 10 years.

An Eaglet in Argyll surrounded by a surplus of Mountain Hares and Rabbits in 1981

An Eaglet in Argyll surrounded by a surplus of Mountain Hares and Rabbits in 1981

The same Eaglet a few weeks later, fat on lagomorphs. Now both Rabbits and Mountain Hares are virtually extinct in the area through human persecution

The same Eaglet a few weeks later, fat on lagomorphs. Now both Rabbits and Mountain Hares are virtually extinct in the area through human persecution

If you want to enjoy these cracking Lagomorphs whether in their winter white or summer schist, sites worth a visit include Long Gutter Edge, Derbyshire; Findhorn Valley, Highland; and Cairngorm Ski Carpark. For more information see ‘Where to Watch Mammals: Britain and Ireland’ R Moores 2007.

You’ll also have the added bonus of enjoying a few classic upland birds as well, especially at the Scottish sites.

Shorter ears and a greyer, more schisty-colouration to the pelage separate Mountain Hares from Brown Hares

Shorter ears and a greyer, more schisty-colouration to the pelage separate Mountain Hares from Brown Hares

Run Rabbit Run! If the camouflage fails then they still have the ability to out-run any predators or photographers!

Run Rabbit Run! If the camouflage fails then they still have the ability to out-run any predators or photographers!

 

Slaty-backed Gull

The Young’uns

With the recent stunning/ gripping/Oh flip why can’t I find one… adult Slaty-backed Gull found by Derek Charles and Majella Callaghan Killybegs in co Donegal the question goes:

How to identify young birds as surly they are at least as likely to occur.

eBird map of Slaty-backed Gull sightings. More to come!

eBird map of Slaty-backed Gull sightings. More to come!

 

Thanks to Julian Hough we posted about a candidate first winter Slaty-backed gull in Connecticut, USA a couple of years ago. Well a paper just out gives that bird a thumbs up as good looking Slaty. So here’s that bird again. Story and more photos on Julian’s website

The 9000 word paper!! is entitled

Vagrancy and Identification of first-cycle Slaty-backed Gull

and can found in the Nov/ Dec 2014 edition of the ABA’s ‘Birding’ magazine.

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One Night Only – Friday 13th February 2015

The Arctic Comes to Flamborough 

You are very welcome to come along.

Please note the date 13th February 2015 at 7:30 pm

This is the night when the Observatory will be hosting a special extra event for the RSPB.

It’s a talk with Tormod Amundsen from Arctic Norway, Graham White from the RSPB and short talk from yours truly. My bit will be about Arctic birds in Yorkshire. What’s been and what might be.

WHERE:    Flamborough Head Golf Club

WHEN:      Friday 13th February 2015

WHAT TIME Doors open 7:00 pm, for 7:30 start.

HOW MUCH: Great news for Yorkshire folk- FREE entry! 🙂

See poster below  for all dates and locations and do feel free to pass it on/ post it elsewhere and tell your friends. Thanks!

RSPB & Biotope tour poster MG new date

 

 

Russian Common Gull – heinei

An adult on Texel

This is a reblog of a bird on telex which remains a convincing adult heinei from 3 years ago which I watched and photographed on Texel, Netherlands with Nils van Duivendijk. Dawn Balmer tweeted about a dark looking bird seen in last day or two in UK. Here’s the right upperwing pattern Dawn 🙂

One of the fun birds to find with the guys on Texel was this adult Russian Common Gull ssp. heinei. Info on identification on these is bit uncertain so this is a little peak at a work-in-progress. I have been looking at the subject for a while, more recently very encouraged to be working with Chris Gibbins and his fresh insights.

This bird, in a frozen harbour on Texel ticks ALL the boxes for ID as adult heinei. I think it is one!

ad common gull henei Texel 12.2.12 c

It’s the bird in the middle at the back. Compare upperpart tone with adult argentatus Herring on Gull on the near left. Some heinei are almost/ virtually the tone of graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gulls. (Kodak Grey Scale: heinei Common = 6-8, graellsii LBB = 8-10 (11).)

I saw several darker Common Gulls on Texel (adult and 2nd winters), though not all as well as this bird. There are no ‘sight records’ for heinei in Netherlands, only trapped birds as far as I know. Same in the U.K. Shame.

ad common gull texel henei 12.2.12 dCloser view- check out the iris colour and interestingly the considerable protrusion of black-banded p5 beyond tertials. It looked long-winged on the deck with quite bright legs and bill.

ad Common Gull henei  Texel 12.2.12 dad Common Gull henei  Texel 12.2.12 fad Common Gull henei  Texel 12.2.12 g

Lots of good heinei info in the primaries- broad black ‘michahellis’ band on p5, combined with mostly black p8  or at least black (nearly) up to primary coverts on outer web of p8 and little dark marks on p4. A bit technical but that seems to be a winning combination.ad Common Gull henei  Texel 12.2.12 b

ad Common Gull henei  Texel 12.2.12

paler iris, very dark upperparts and 3 points in wing tip pattern

This bird was trapped in the Netherlands, also in February 2012 by VRS Meijendel (the name of the ringing group). Vincent van der Spek got in touch and kindly sent images. It had a wing length of 394mm – a heinei on wing length (max wing in canus 390mm). Notice similar themes in primary pattern to bird above.

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P.S. Don’t write if you find a Common Gull with black band on p5- some nominate canus have the feature although it’s often broken and not as broad. Let me know though if you see one with all these characters.