Monthly Archives: June 2015

Mandt’s Guillemot in the Netherlands

Monster!

Martin Garner

A first summer Mandt’s Guillemot was found in the Netherlands two days ago. The subject of one of the chapters in the next Challenge Series, due out in a couple of months, the timing of its appearance couldn’t be better!

2cy Mandt's Guillemot by Corstiaan Beeke

2cy Mandt’s Guillemot by Corstiaan Beeke

A Great Find

Tom van der Have emailed over the weekend to point out a summer plumaged Black Guillemot which had been found by Roger Pynaerts at Kamperland – Jacobahaven on the southern Dutch coast (east of Essex and Kent). The bird seems only to have ben present on Saturday 27th June and not yet seen since. Tom was quick to note it showed characters of mandtii

Corstiaan Beeke and Pim Wolf got lovely photos, demonstrating beyond doubt this was indeed no ordinary Black Guillemot. In fact it’s a first summer Mandt’s Guillemot from the High Arctic.

It’s already in the next Challenge Series: WINTER

We have looked into this subject on Birding Frontiers with this excellent piece from Dan Brown. In preparing the next Challenge series book on ‘Winter’, it seemed an obvious chapter to include. Having gone into the subject in-depth it’s fantastic to have a Mandt’s appear in the southern North Sea up just  couple of months before publication. We guessed they should occur- then one shows up with immaculate timing:). This bird widely touted as mandtii on Talkin Tarn, Cumbria in December 2013, unfortunately appears from the photos to be a paler than average southern bird. In the pictures it lacks critical features of mandtii. I have seen similarly pale birds in Shetland. So Britain awaits its first…

2cy Mandt's Guillemot by Corstiaan Beeke

2cy Mandt’s Guillemot by Corstiaan Beeke

Full Species?

It seems worth commenting that originally Mandt’s Guillemot was consider a full species including by the normally conservative American Ornithologists Union. Its morphology stands in contrast to the southern taxa which vary little, all being very similar. Indeed despite some purported differences among southern taxa, I found none which were robust. One could almost simply have two ‘Black Guillemot’ taxa- the souther ‘grylle’ type and High Arctic mandtii.

2cy Mandt's Guillemot by Corstiaan Beeke

2cy Mandt’s Guillemot by Corstiaan Beeke

Key Features – a section from the new book

To explain why this is a Mandt’s Guillemot- here’s a sneak preview, just for you, from the new book in the Challenge Series: You’ll have to wait though for Ray Scally’s excellent illustrations and some lovely photos 🙂

Key features all plumages

       Underwing

  1.  In southern taxa, primaries largely dark contrasting with white underwing coverts. Some have short white ’bleed’ visible at the base of the primaries. On mandtii white covers about half of the underside of the primaries, slightly less so on birds from Alaska. Secondaries similarly white-based (black in southern taxa) with white visible beyond underwing coverts.Outer upperwing
  2. White patterning in primary coverts is diagnostic for mandtii with greatest extent found in 1cy-2cy. White, to varying degrees on the median and greater primary coverts produces bars across these coverts. In adults the outer primary coverts are typically black but inner primary coverts are white, frequently on inner webs or outer webs or both. In some (adults) white is restricted to innermost median primary coverts and forms just small ‘bud’ of white pushing across into the median primary coverts. In others (and especially first-winters) there are one or two broad conspicuous white bars across the primary coverts almost to leading edge of wing.
  3.  White tipped secondaries (diagnostic formandtii) obvious in1cy-2cy birds and present to varying degree in adultsInner upperwing
  4. Pattern of white patch over secondary coverts (the big white oval) similar in mandtii to southern taxa except that feathers more often wholly white (or almost so) in mandtii, versus being black- based in southern taxa. Black bases are sometimes visible as a dark ‘wingbar’ across white oval patch in adults. Thought to be a feature of islandicus, it is found in other southern taxa also.
  5.  In 1cy-2cy mandtii the black spotting on white upperwing patch is generally smaller than in southern taxa
2cy Mandt's Guillemot by Pim Wolf.

2cy Mandt’s Guillemot by Pim Wolf.

2cy Mandt's Guillemot by Pim Wolf.

2cy Mandt’s Guillemot by Pim Wolf.

In the UK anytime now?

With a fly-by Black Guillemot off Portland last week and a bird which I saw off South Landing, Flamborough also last week (frustratingly distant) – we really need to be on full alert in the UK for this this taxon 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the read… Now to get back to polishing off this flippin book!

2cy Mandt's Guillemot by Pim Wolf.

2cy Mandt’s Guillemot by Pim Wolf.

 

 

Great Skuas summering off Flamborough

and them Pomarines

Martin Garner

Great Skua 28th June M Garner f (1 of 1)

Skua watching has been unusually good off Flamborough this June. However it’s not of the expected species. Up to 7 Pomarine Skuas and several Great Skuas seem to be summering in Bridlington Bay. Most individuals, especially the Pomarines appear to be immature birds as might be expected.

This Great Skua came particularly close this morning. The dark ‘hooded’ head and pale base to the upper mandibles indicate this should be an immature bird. I might take a stab at it being a 2nd summer. I haven’t looked into any literature but it would be interesting to see if the details in the photos can lead to a more definitive ageing.

Have a look:

Great Skua 28th June M Garner d (1 of 1)Great Skua 28th June M Garner a (1 of 1)Great Skua 28th June M Garner e (1 of 1)Great Skua 28th June M Garner g (1 of 1)

Request for help with Photos

Challenge Series: Book Two

Planning to have this out for the 2015 Rutland Birdfair.

We have had some great contributions of photos for various chapters in book two which is on a ‘winter’ theme. I am just looking for a few more and wonder if Birding Frontiers readers can help? We need good quality images of the following:

 

Great Grey Shrikes 

                                   – homeyeri

                                  – leucopterus

                                  – sibiricus

If you are able to help, please send low res images to martin ‘at’ birdingfrontiers.com

Thanks very much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quizbird: Leaf Warbler with a wing bar.

Blåvand, Denmark, 27th May 2015

On the 27th of May this year Henrik Knudsen trapped a wing-barred phylloscopus warbler at Blåvand, Denmark. It wasn’t heard to call.

WP 3-4, 2nd=7 Wing 61.5 mm.

So what species is it? Feathers for DNA which have already been sent off and are awaiting results of their analysis.

I (Martin G) have expressed my opinion on the identification to Henrik (and I will share them). He also has thoughts. What do you think?

warbler two (1 of 1) warbler three (1 of 1) warbler one (1 of 1)

 

The Saiga saga

Dan Brown

The Saiga mass-mortality event has finally come to an end but with the loss of 50% of the population in just three weeks
A tragic sight as deceased animals are heaped together for burial.

A tragic sight as deceased animals are heaped together for burial.

You will no doubt have heard of the recent mass mortality amongst Saiga Antelope Saiga tatarica in Kazakhstan. The final official death toll stands at 134,252 animals, that’s 50% of the entire world population dead in just three weeks in Kazakhstan.

The Western Saiga - a bizarre antelope with the proboscis for filtering out dust in the summer and heating sub-zero air in the winter.

The Western Saiga – a bizarre antelope with the proboscis for filtering out dust in the summer and heating sub-zero air in the winter.

At the end of the last Ice Age roamed from western Europe right through to the pacific coast though gradually contracted their range until they were restricted to the asian steppe, including Eastern Europe. Still in their millions their great herds would have rivalled and probably surpassed the spectacle of African ungulates. Every year these animals would have made seasonal movements in search of fresh pastures and when spooked they can run at 80kmp/h, a sight in itself.

Normally Saiga run with their heads down to avoid ingesting too much dust from animals infant of them

Normally Saiga run with their heads down to avoid ingesting too much dust from animals infant of them

Saigas were once found right across the Palearctic. The males are characteristic in having horns, which the females lack.

Saigas were once found right across the Palearctic. The males are characteristic in having horns, which the females lack.

Dawn the nineteenth century, and like a dark shadow over the species, population numbers started crashing. The use of Saiga horn in Chinese medicine rocketed, and in fact became more popular than Rhino horn, and by 1930 the millions had been reduced to a small population on the Kalmyk Steppe in Europe. Just in time, strict anti-poaching measures came into place and by 1960 numbers were back up to 500,000 on the banks of the Volga and 1.5 million in Kazakhstan. Cue the breakup of the USSR, and a reversal in the fortunes of the Saiga. Once again uncontrolled poaching came in to play and the population crashed by 95% to a low of 50,000. Yet again a slow recovery has taken place up to 250,000 earlier this year but now the population has suffered a 50% decline.

An incredibly depressing sight as an entire herd dies almost in one go.

An incredibly depressing sight as an entire herd dies almost in one go.

This is not the first time a die-off has occurred though. In 2012 12,000 animals out of a population of 25,000 dropped dead following a harsh winter, and an unknown trigger. The cause is likely to have been the same then as now, haemorrhagic septicaemia, caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida. Thankfully the outbreak is now over but once within a herd it successfully killed every animal within a few days. One of the main reasons for the mass die-off is that all the females calve within a week of each other creating perfect conditions for the disease to spread between animals.

Mortality rate has been exacerbated by the simultaneous occurrence of calving in the population.

Mortality rate has been exacerbated by the simultaneous occurrence of calving in the population.

The re-introduced population in the Ukraine and the populations of the similar Mongolian Saiga thankfully appear to be untouched. With concerted conservation efforts it should be possible to bring Saiga numbers back up to former levels but with populations occurring in politically volatile areas this task may be far from easy.

Responses to Oriental Cuckoo Post

by Jochen Dierschke

Many thanks to all comments either received privately or on this blog!

In the meantime I received some much better pictures taken bei Oliver Nüssen:

Kuckuck_20150527_ONuessen_08 Kuckuck_20150527_ONuessen_07 Kuckuck_20150527_ONuessen_05 Kuckuck_20150527_ONuessen_09

Especially the last picture shows that also the lesser underwing-coverts are faintly barred and that the primaries have too many white bars for Oriental. Some people suggested that this bird might be a female. I am not very experienced in sexing Cuckoos, but most pictures of birds I’ve seen ringed and sexed do not fit the bird.

In Summary: Although the bird looks like being within the variation of Oriental, it seems more likely to be a Common Cuckoo. As the calls were never definitely heard from the bird in question, it may have been a different bird calling. The calls heard were also “three-note-calls”, making an Oriental unlikely.

At least we learnt some lessons on Cuckoo-ID, but it seems a nightmare to get an Oriental Cuckoo accepted in Europe outside Russia!