Author Archives: Martin Garner

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Ivory Gull in Varanger

I Never Dreamed…

Ooo… just missed turing up for the 2015 Gullfest. Still must a bit heart soul and body warming encounter for Simon Colenutt and Trevor Codlin in Vardo harbour  who found this adult Ivory Gull at the start of this week (22nd March 2015). Read  Biotope’s account of the Ivory Gull at Vardo,

Simon writes: ‘What a cracking bird! I never dreamed of finding Ivory Gull!”

Read more of Simon and Trevor’s visit at ‘The Deskboundbirder’

Check out that head shot!

Ivory oneb (1 of 1)Ivory one (1 of 1)Ivory onec (1 of 1)Ivory onea (1 of 1)


Yellowhammer with Pine Bunting bits

in the garden, but just passing through…

Martin Garner

Out at end of Flamborough head, light spring passage includes Chaffinches, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer in small numbers at the moments.

Yellowhammer PB5 (1 of 1)

Martin Garner

I have had a little passion for Yellowhammers for quite a while. Looked at lots. Know the drill. Males with rufous in roughly the moustache/malar region are very common. Nowt out of the ordinary. However last Friday a male appeared in the garden with a rufous band under the throat. Now that grabbed my attention. I have personally never seen that pattern on a male Yellowhammer. Indeed I knew it was interesting. Why? Probably indicates some level of Pine Bunting ‘influence’. Check out a picture of a male Pine Bunting. The two places you expect chestnut to show on yellow Yellowhammer with Pine Bunt bits? The chestnut on the throat, a and chestnut around eye.

This bird had both. So I grabbed  a couple of  distant shots. Took me another couple of hours of effort over next 2 days to get better pics. And the bird appears to have moved on.

think I’m making it up ;) ?

BWP text

“Birds with chestnut spotted or full malar stripe occur frequently in various populations, without clear trend; birds with patches of rufous elsewhere on head, throat or upper chest occur mainly in East European Russia and Asia, probably due to introgression of characters of Pine Bunting E. leucocephalus.”

Anyone can add to the picture, we are keen to learn. It may be vestigial characters on this individual (I can find photos of odd trapped Yellowhammer with rufous around the eye in W Europe by scrolling t’internet) or may be evidence of recent (several generations?) introgression- thus this individual is already ‘from the east’. Both scenarios or entirely possible.

Yellowhammer PB3 (1 of 1) Yellowhammer PB2 (1 of 1) Yelllowhammer 4 (1 of 1) Yellowhammer PB10 (1 of 1) Yellowhammer PB9 (1 of 1) Yellowhammer PB11 (1 of 1)


Lancashire December 2003

Meanwhile I think this is also one with more rufous, photographed by Chris Batty at Bradshaw Lane Head, Pilling Moss, Lancashire on 30th December 2003. We featured it HERE

yellowhammer30122003b yellowhammer30122003c


and this one with even more rufous (see how the pattern increases) from Calle

Sweden February 2015

“Hi Martin!

Saw your picture of the possible hybrid bunting on Twitter! I photographed a bunting earlier this winter (February 8th) in my garden in Sweden that I consider to be a Yellowhammer X Pine Bunting. Here are some pictures of it!

Best wishes,

Calle Ljungberg”

Calle hybrid Yammer pine bunt (1 of 1) Calle hybrid Yammer pine bunt 7 (1 of 1) Calle hybrid Yammer pine bunt 8 (1 of 1) Calle hybrid Yammer pine bunt 9 (1 of 1)

Calle hybird 14 (1 of 1)

March and April and good bunting migration/ movements months. I’ll keep looking.


Thanks to Frédéric Jiguet check out this bird written up in Dutch Birding:

Jiguet F 2003, Dutch Birding 25-5, 323-326. Hybrid Yellowhammer x Pine Bunting in central France in May-June 2002.

“Hi Martin,
Attached are the three photos of the male, presumed hybrid, that I caught at a breeding site in western France. Caught and ringed 27 May 2002, recaptured on site 24 June 2002.
This male had a very pale yellow head with dark bold blackish stripes (being the most Pine-trends), but deeper yellow on face, a very large rufous band on the breast (Pine-pointing too), pale lower flanks and vent.

The possibility of an hybrid Cirl x Yellow was considered but rapidly excluded.



fred y1 (1 of 1)

pho2fred y3 (1 of 1)


and a normal male in the garden yesterday in low evening sun

male yammmer 2 (1 of 1)


Black Scoter in Poland

First winter male

Zbigniew Kajzer

Hi Martin,

What do you think about this Scoter? I found it yesterday (18th March 2015) at Dziwnów, west part of Polish Baltic coast. I think it is a  2cy male Black Scoter Melanitta americana. I’m very curious about your opinion.

Previously I found two males of Black Scoter (in 2009 and 2013) but both were adults. We have 5 accepted records in Poland so this immature male represents 6th record. Here is gallery of Polish records of Black Scoter. 

We have on west part of Polish Baltic coast to 6% of the wintering Baltic population of Common Scoter. The number of Common Scoter is highest in spring (March-April) to more than 25 thousands.

Best regards, Zbigniew Kajzer


YES!  It’s a corker isn’t it? (I think Zbigniew knows very well how well he has done- 3 records!). I am not sure but Black Scoter in ‘first winter’/ 2cy male plumage remains extremely rare in the Western Palearctic with perhaps only one/two other claims in the UK? Profile photos like these provide the best angle for ascertaining the position and extent of the yellow bill ‘lump’ which here is out-with any appearance of odd/variant Common Scoter and spot-on for Black. It’s a belter!

2cy Black Scoter poland

Juvenile/ 2cy Thayer’s Gull in Iceland

Helgavik Harbour, South West Iceland. 15th-16th March 2015

Following this 2nd winter trickier bird, Derek Charles and Edward Rickson picked up this more straightforward 2cy (juvenile/ first winter) Thayer’s from SW Iceland last Sunday and Monday (15-16th March).  It’ s a bit mealier below and paler in scapulars above than some but certainly  fits the Thayer’s ‘look’ overall. Derek also picked out a Brünnich’s Guillemot which proved popular with Icelandic birders. Nice!

One interesting point, Derek noted was that all first winter Iceland and Kumlien’s were extremely worn compared with this Thayer’s, furthermore making many Kumlien’s considerably more difficult to distinguish. All among the glorious swarm of March Icelandic Gull acton!

2cy Thayer’s Gull. Helgavik Harbour, March 2015. All photos Derek Charles:

tfive (1 of 1)

tfour (1 of 1) tone (1 of 1) tthree (1 of 1) ttwo (1 of 1)

The Pink and Blue Ones

littoralis glory

While we have a fine selection of more subtle Scandinavian Rock Pipits currently at Flamborough- one would like a proper pink and blue one. From deep down in Dorset at Ferrybridge, Brett Spencer has sent photos of the kinda of thing to make ya drool :). Such Water Pipit-esq coloured littoralis are gorgeous – maybe ours have colours still to come…

Brett S littoralis 2 Brett S littoralis 1

Scandinavian Rock Pipit, ‘littoralis’. Ferrybridge, Dorset, Brett Spencer.


Thayer’s Gull in Iceland?

Challenging 2nd winter plumage

Martin Garner and David Walker

First off checkout this amazing photo of the awesome gull swarm at Olafsvik, Iceland last year. From Dungeness Bird Obs warden Dave Walker- man you wanna go there!

Martin Casemore Plodding Birder and David clocked the darker bird looking a candidate 2nd winter’s Thayer’s a few days ago at Grundarfjordur, Iceland. It’s a bit of a scary bird, so a few photos and some comment. Lot more pictures of the bird on the Dungeness Bird Obs website.

gull flock (1 of 1)


 Gull sp , Grundarfjordur, Iceland, March, 2015

t12 (1 of 1)t125 (1 of 1)t123 (1 of 1)t17 (1 of 1)

 From MG:

“From the first photos it is pretty Thayer’s like. Indeed I suppose it may well be the progeny of 2 adult Thayer’s. However for ID purposes of vagrants I would not peg it as identifiable/ acceptable if it was say in the UK. There are a number of features that put it into the uncertain/ what is going on? box. On the broad front I wonder if there is some pioneer zone where there is some gene mixing- say NW Greenland and these scary ones show up from.

Specifically- and your photos show this much better- it is very mealy dark/light patterning in greater coverts- most often thayeri is quiet plain, the outer primaries have less dark than ideal- best if it crosses to the inner web- and the pattern starts going weak from p6, also not so good. There is a pale spot even if not a proper mirror on p10 and the little subterminal string of pale spots on p8 ish and inwards is definitely odd and maybe better for kumlieni I think.

So that combined set of slight oddments are a least at ‘edge’ of acceptable 2nd winter Thayer’s would make me say it’s best left as Thayer’s -like but uncertain ID. It’s not dissimilar to some we showcased here  and those features are hashed out further here. I have seen quite a few 2nd winter Thayer’s and most look more straightforward- which is of course you want when claiming vagrants! Always learning…”

Gullfest 2015. Joy and envy

Gullfest 2015 is happening as I write

I have a tad of Gullfest envy as we can’t be there. So bear with and see why :)

Gullfest 2015 poster A2 - Vardø aerial biotope

Lars J. is in de building




Brünnich’s will be flashin’Brunnichs (1 of 1)


Gyrs will be aboot like they was when Darren Woodhead was drawin’ back in ’13gyr drawings (1 of 1) gyr drawings 2 (1 of 1) gyr drawings 3 (1 of 1)


and Lars can draw Gyr’s too


and he did some Steller’s Eider using his big momma scope

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 13.35.19

I think he’s not bad- I’d give him a passScreen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.29.07


 and he’s tellin’ them about “drawing what he sees not what he knows”

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 13.23.50Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 13.24.04


Then the ol’ Sami tent going up for the cool views and amazing food and atmospheric fire pits

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.29.21


and that NORRRRFulk lad James McCallum is back in his fave zone doing what he doose bestScreen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.29.55Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.30.53


and Jonnie Fisk – 2 years running? Needs to go find that flippin v- nigrum Eider so he can actually tick it! He also does very cool art:

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.30.04

and the Biotope hides- including brand spanking new ones are inspiring a generationScreen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.30.33B_-hqLhUIAERfZi



and one of my favourites  – there is community transformation a going on…

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 13.24.53


So you see Mrs G and me should be there. We will be back because the work of Tormod and Elin and the Biotope team is a friendship and a partnership that has been a huge boon to us.

All power to their hands and their plans…

mg arctic (1 of 1)my beautiful wife (1 of 1)


and a bit more art from Lars and couple of photos from me (from auk island viewable from the Sami tent)

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 15.31.08 shag 2 (1 of 1)

The Shags are always very cool and the hyperborea Guillemots- ‘ave em!

Guillemot hyperborea (1 of 1)