Monthly Archives: April 2015

Spanish Wagtail X Blue-headed Wagtail

“Central Atlantique” Yellow Wagtails – flava x iberiae

by Eugene Archer

Yellow Wagtail_3241

Hi Martin,

Hope all are well there ?

Regarding the Filey wagtail I find it a bit difficult to judge exactly the colour of the upperparts, especially around the head so I don’t know if this will be of much use but here’s something else to muddle up the possibilities:
In western France (essentially from the Gironde up the Loire valleys) there is a fairly stable population (maybe 30% in some areas) of intergrade Yellow Wagtails showing plumage characters of both Blue-headed flava and Spanish iberiae. These bird are usually referred to as “Central atlantique” Yellow Wagtails locally.

Yellow Wagtail_1330Classic examples look basically like a normal flava but with a pure white throat. The blue-grey crown and nape are sometimes a little darker and often there is a prominent white sub-ocular crescent. It has also been suggested that 2CY birds may be more prone to exhibiting a full white throat. I’ve seen individuals with slightly contrastingly darker ear-coverts but not quite the full mid-grey and dark-grey head pattern of typical iberiae as it were. They give raspy calls too, like a lot of the birds around here, but I don’t have any recordings of them unfortunately.

Philippe Dubois wrote an interesting article on Yellow Wagtails in France in Ornithos, vol 8-2: 44-73 (2001) which covers the various intergrades including those on the Mediterranean coast (iberiae x cinereocapilla) which apparently can show the full range of mixed characters !

A few photos attached to show various birds from the Loire estuary region , some with variable amounts of yellow suffusions on the lower throat, some with more or less prominent supercilliums, etc. etc. ! Complicated, eh 😉

All the best,


yellow wagtail_5080yellow wagtail_5096yellow wagtail_8138yellow wagtail_5074Yellow Wagtail_1332


all photos above by Eugene Archer

Collared Flycatcher hybrid

with Pied Flycatcher

by Dani Lopez Velasco

papamoscas JS


During the last few years, a team of keen Spanish birders has visited the idyllic island of Cabrera, a small islet off Mayorca, in search of rarities. The weather conditions and landscape –as well as the “common” birds – are pretty different to those in most rarity hotspots in western Europe (but I guess similar to Linosa), and birding under blue and sunny skies amidst large falls of migrants is the norm here.

Based on the results of past ringing campaigns, where a number of firsts for Spain have been caught, including sugh megas as Ruppell’s Warbler or Semicollared Flycatcher, we decided to give a first try some springs ago, which ended up in Juan Sagardia, one of our team, finding another first for Spain, a stunning Cretzschmars Bunting. Following that, we´ve made several more 3 day trips, in late April and mid October, producing large numbers of common migrants (and Balearic Warbler is one of the most common birds in the island!), as well as plenty of good rarities including Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (first for Spain) and Hume´s Leaf Warbler (3rd for Spain), Little Bunting, Collared and R-b Flycathers, lots of Y-b Warblers, etc…

fic sp 3 DSC_2195

We´ve come again this year, and on the first morning two days ago, a large fall of ficedula flycatchers took place. Amongst them, a classic female Collared Flycatcher – a rarity here and one of the first females to be identified in the field in Spain- was found and, most interesting, a male showing features of a hybrid Collared x Pied. Separating a hybrid from a male Iberian Pied – iberiae hereafter – and Atlas Flycatcher – speculigera hereafter- can be challenging or, in certain individuals, especially 2cy, almost impossible based on field marks, although the sound recordings of this individual, with a call very similar to that of a Collared, together with a couple of plumage features, point towards the bird being a hybrid.

fic sp 5 DSC_2192

fic sp 2 DSC_2191

Interesting features of this bird include an all black tail (with an all black T6), hint of a near-complete neck collar (especially obvious in certain angles)- although note that some male iberiae and speculigera can show similar neck collars-, a relatively large white forehead patch and jet-black upperparts.

fic sp 4 DSC_2186papamoscas-vuelo JS

All these features can be shown by both a hybrid and a pure speculigera/iberiae, although, given that the bird seems to be an adult, then the white primary patch is clearly smaller than on the most typical adult speculigera /iberiae (and the white forehead patch is also smaller than on a classic speculigera).

To compare: iberiae Pied Flycatcher

iberiae pied flycatcher Juan Sagardia first summer male

above: First summer male iberiae Pied Flycatcher

below apparent hybrid Collared X Pied Flycatcher

papamoscas2 JS

Call is therefore essential to reach a positive ID, and the plaintive, straight, thin whistle, very similar to Collared, and unlike the typical contact call of Pied, should rule out speculigera and iberiae, thus indicating hybrid origin. A very interesting and educative flycatcher for sure!

I´d like to thank Jose Luis Copete, Andrea Corso, Brian Small, Magnus Hellstrom and Guillermo Rodriguez for their comments on this and other ficedula flycatchers.

fic sp 1 DSC_2193

Scarce Tortoiseshell

aka Yellow-legs

Thanks to Will Brame who sent these images of a Scarce Tortoiseshell, also known as Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell. He found this one in Suffolk earlier this spring. In the butterfly world it’s an amazing find and follows an unprecedented arrival into Britain of about 7 Scarce Tortoiseshells last July 2014.

There was only one previous record- in 1953 of  a species which normally only occurs east of a line from the Baltic to the Adriatic- eastern Europe and Asia through to China. Some migrant occasionally reach up into Finland and southern Sweden, and its thought some of these proceed to head west into the Netherlands subsequently reaching eastern Britain. Apologies to Will for the late posting. Some of us have been keeping a keen eye out in East Yorkshire. No luck yet though…


IMG_6819 IMG_6822

above- Scarce Tortoiseshell in Suffolk by Will Brame- showing some leg. All photos above by Will Brame.

 How to Identify them? 

This book is a real boon- just published in early 2015, it even mentions the July 2014 arrival. It does a superb job at helping the learners like me to learn the differences between Small Tortoiseshell, Large Tortoiseshell and Scarce Tortoiseshell. see below:


Britain’s Butterflies:k10469
A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland
Fully Revised and Updated Third edition
David Newland, Robert Still, Andy Swash & David Tomlinson





tort three (1 of 1)tort two (1 of 1)

Spanish Wagtail: iberiae

What they look like…

Trevor Charlton has taken these images in Morocco and Western Sahara in recent years. Most look like straight iberiae – ‘Spanish Wagtail‘. They give a good idea of the appearance and some of the variety to be found. The Filey bird looks very similar. Trevor describes the call as “To my ears, the call is rasping, often loud, sometimes uttered aggressively and repeatedly.

Have a look at these lovely images:

spanish 1 (1 of 1) spanish 3 (1 of 1) spanish 4 (1 of 1) spanish 5 (1 of 1) spanish 6 (1 of 1)

Here’s the Filey bird again:

spanish 8 (1 of 1) spanish 9 (1 of 1)

This next one taken in NW Africa by trevor is a little paler headed, at least in the photo:spanish 7 (1 of 1)


and this next one may be a cinereocapilla– Ashy-headed Wagtail.spanish 2 (1 of 1)

Global Big Day — 9 May 2015

How many birds can be seen in a single day around the world? That’s the idea behind the Global Big Day effort being coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For more than 30 years, Cornell’s Team Sapsucker has been doing Big Days (Bird Races) to raise money for conservation (and support eBird). We’ve had some great times, from our awesome 294 species run in Texas to last year’s El Gigante that combined Arizona and California for 275 species. We had a great time at the Champions of the Flyway event last year in Israel. Other impressive totals we prefer to forget (Andrew Farnsworth is leading Marshall Iliff 2 to 1 for most flat tires [err, tyres] while driving on the Lab Big Days).


But what’s next? With the Cornell Lab’s centennial in 2015, we decided to make some big changes to the Big Day—most importantly to expand the team drastically. There are few things we enjoy more than going out and seeing how many birds we can see—and we want to share that fun with the world. For 2015 we invite everyone around to join us in an attempt to see as many species as possible on a single calendar day. Are 3000 species possible? 4000? More? Could we document half the species in the world? We have absolutely no idea—but that’s what makes it fun! For birds to count, all you need to do is enter them into eBird. Mark your calendars for 9 May 2015 for the first ever Global Big Day on International Migratory Bird Day and start spreading the word in your area.

This year is a little different from past Big Days because we are interested in the cumulative total from around the world. This means, if you are in Brazil there are 253 species that can’t be found anywhere else. India 57; Australia 347; Puerto Rico 16; Hawaii 33; California 2. Who wants to be responsible for Scottish Crossbill?

Golden-collared-Manakin_270Our hope is that miniature competitions will develop. Who will record more species, the United Kingdom or Portugal? New York or Massachusetts? Colombia or Ecuador? The main differences between this and other bird races, is that we are interested in the number of species we can see by working together—after all, that is the idea behind eBird.

We will be using the hashtag #GlobalBigDay and hope you will use it in discussing this on social media. We recognize that this is not the ideal date for birding all around the world, but we needed to start somewhere. Please let us know if you have any questions. We will be sending more information in the coming weeks.

To find out more head over to:

We realize that people may use other bird recording systems (e.g., Birdtrack), but our hope is that on this one day we can envision a world where all birders worldwide can bring their data together for a truly global snapshot. We continue to strategize with BTO and other groups around the world on how to fund and develop an integrated global system.

If you are new to eBird, take a look at our Quick Start Guide to get started.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Ahh, if only it were so simple! In eBird we have options to display common names in a variety of ways. If you like, you can go with the Yank version of Black-bellied Plover, but we expect many will prefer Grey Plover. eBird has eight English versions of Common Names including English (United Kingdom) (EN_UK) and English (IOC) (EN_IOC) which can be changed from eBird Preferences once you have an account. If you want more details on taxonomy and how this works, see this article.

And feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


Chris, Marshall, Brian, Tim, Jessie, Andrew, Ian and the entire eBird and Cornell Lab crew. Thanks also to Cornell student, Luke Seitz for the amazing Big Day art, which you can download here.

Spanish Wagtail

iberiae or no?

This afternoon Mark Pearson, busy writing ‘in the field’ had this flava wagtail drop in front of him. Speaking to him about it and then seeing the photos- yikes! I would be pretty pumped up to find one such. The plumage- crisp white throat with no ‘bleed’ of yellow on lower border, skinny white supercilium and Mark’s call description sound appealingly good. Please may it be seen again and sound recording obtained!

Mark writes:

“A brief but close encounter with this little beauty at a small wetland near the Dams here in Filey this afternoon. With conditions, time of the season and the glut of southern European overshoots further south, I’ve been hammering the patch accordingly – to no avail, until this afternoon. As well what seems like a very promising suite of characters, the bird also delivered an interestingly un-flava-like call several times….


More photos on Mark’s Blog


eIMG_5903a eIMG_5949a



Ahh Spring at last…

Displaying Lapwing

Displaying Lapwing

Posted by Justin Carr.

Maybe it’s just me, but don’t you think spring has been dragging its heels this year. Well it is here at last. For me there is nothing more exciting than seeing the first Sand Martin skimming over my watery local patch. or the song of the first Chiffchaff.

Here are some of my shots from the last couple of weeks. All Digiscoped of course.

Mute Swans

Mute Swans

Sand Martin

Sand Martin



Hoverfly  sp.

Hoverfly sp.

Snakes Head Fratilery

Snakes Head Fratilery

And a few more from a trip to Flamborough. I popped into Thornwick Pools Nature reserve, Hats off to the local Birders for creating a great little reserve. I found the hide a super spot to get some nice close-ups of the locals.

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow

House Sparrows

House Sparrows

Make the most of the next six weeks of spring it will only get better!!

all pics Digiscoped on a Swarovski ATX 85.

Good Digiscoping. : )