Siberian Stonechats – maurus in Britain

a young male and young female

It’s become a very exciting find. Always was. Now there is a little more to play for. To go all nostalgic- back in the 1980’s, Siberian Stonechats were a little more common than they have been in recent years. But we didn’t fully engage with the other taxa that were ‘on the cards’.

Now they are rarer, and the commonest form- maurus, while the obvious first choice might not always be the right answer.

The Stejneger’s Stonechat (we had a little role in championing the name in case you were wondering – following a discussion I had with the lovely Prof Martin Collinson) – the more easterly counterpart of maurus is out there. The Caspian Stonechats too- especially the females can quite easily go unnoticed. Really! (ask Yoav :).

So two birds to talk about. So chuffed for Lee J. who found this baby just down the road from my house. And we have an amazing community of birders at Flamborough. So my new limited mobility meant Brett Richards rallied and gave a good hour hogging his ‘scope while I watched this bird and lovely Great Grey Shrike. The wonder of human kindness.. don’t get me started!

Here’s the Flamborough bird- still present today (17th Oct).

First winter (male) Siberian Stonechat - maurus - Flamborough, October 2015 Lee Johnson

First winter (male) Siberian Stonechat – maurus – Flamborough, October 2015.  Lee Johnson

First winter (male) Siberian Stonechat - maurus - Flamborough, October 2015 Andy Hood

First winter (male) Siberian Stonechat – maurus – Flamborough, October 2015.  Andy Hood

I have poached photos from Lee and Andy.

Here you can see what was mostly evident in the field. The rich peachy colours, plain and extensive rump and beautiful clean flanks. The supercilium looks less Striking in the photos, I thought it stood out a little more in the field. However in both field and photos it feels maurus. For Stejneger’s think half way to a European Stonechat with deeper more saturated plumage (and other features).

More obvious than in the field the photos show some individual black feathers, so it seems, just behind and under the eye especially. These say a male to me. Ageing we have covered in-depth before- and is in Book One of the Challenge Series: Autumn. So looking first winter male. Justin Carr also caught some underwing action which while caution needed seems to say black for male rather than grey for female.

First winter (male) Siberian Stonechat - maurus - Flamborough, October 2015. Justin Carr

First winter (male) Siberian Stonechat – maurus – Flamborough, October 2015. Justin Carr

First winter (male) Siberian Stonechat - maurus - Flamborough, October 2015. Justin Carr

First winter (male) Siberian Stonechat – maurus – Flamborough, October 2015. Justin Carr

First winter female

Trapped and ringed at Orfordness, Suffolk (Mike Marsh)  on 10th October (one week ago), it’s wonderful to add to the mix of learning. trapped means a really proper view of the underwing– see below- and it’s all grey. All males are all black whatever the age, and all females are all grey. It’s female and can be aged as a 1cy, a first calendar year female. The plumage tones are not dissimilar to the Flambrough bird, extent of rump etc. The emerging white on the rump compared with rump tone is more maurus-like. The supercilium is a little more obvious, certainly in the hand and overall I think the feel is very strongly for another Siberian- maurus. Not enough to stir up a Stejneger’s claim. Loose feathers obtained during trapping may reveal more..

Very grateful thanks to Mike Marsh, key person ringing and collecting data here and Will Brame who so often comes up exploring great stuff from that area of the country. Also to Dave Crawshaw whose lovely and informative photos these are. Bloomin’ marvellous!

unnamed unnamed 2 unnamed 3 unnamed 4 unnamed 5

 

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