nostrils and carrots
Martin Garner and Bruce Mactavish
The Challenge of finding and identifying Northern Eiders ssp borealis as grabbed my (MG’s) attention since around 1982! A water shed in the the 1990’s came with the find of a flock of 7 credible Northern Eiders off Fanad Head, co Donegal, with among Surf Scoter and a probable dresseri/ borealis intergrade. The same site eventually hosted the first Dresser’s Eider for the Western Palearctic. Searching for sailed Eiders took off! NE Scotland became a boiling pot of Eiders, sails and lively discussion. Que this more recent paper:
Hellquist, A. 2014. Identification of Northern Eider. Dutch Birding 36: 221-231.
One of the author’s observations is that nostril postion can be discriminatory in identifying borealis from nominate mollissima. Simply put (and read the paper for the proper version!) you want a nostril position that is pretty much BEYOND the end of the feathering rather than heavily overlapping with it.
Start here to see what is meant with this nominate mollissima Eider in Varanger. The nostril overlaps with the end of feathering.
OK? Now I have always felt whenever delving into the subject that the Eiders of North East Canada were the most stand out- THIS is borealis baby land! I have a high degree of Bruce Mactavish homeland envy and he has recently got some fantastic images showcasing the Canadian borealis.
Check out the nostril position on these shots by Bruce off Newfoundland last month:
Fanad, Co Donegal
Now have a look at this one taken of Fanad by Brett Richard’s. This bird was with the Dresser’s Eider.
I trawled though quite a lot of shots of ‘sailed Eiders’ from NE Scotland. There might be some but I could find NONE with pro-borealis nostril position. Nada.
But this one- in Northumberland fits (if a little swollen)…
This borealis (on range) on Svalbard would not be identifiable out-of-range.
and finally back to Bruce Mactavish in Newfoundland with grateful thanks…
He has a fantastic rich Eider vein to mine. V-nigrum, possibly v-nigrum intergrades, pucka borealis, Harlequins and as below Dresser’s Eider on the left with the King on the right.
and this carrot bill still has me head scratching…