Author Archives: Martin Garner

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Happy Days! It’s coming soon!

The Spurn Migration Festival.This unique event enters its third year. Now is the time to book in and launch your autumn birding season in the best possible style. At #migfest 2015.
 

Spurn Migration Festival 2015


Tickets have now gone on sale for this bespoke festival celebrating the great bird migration spectacle that passes through Spurn in East Yorkshire every year.

The Spurn Migration Festival is a weekend-long celebration of the autumn migration of birds and includes an extensive programme of walks, talks and demonstrations that will be delivered by the Migration Festival Team.

The festival runs from the 4th – 6th September 2015 and takes place across Spurn, Kilnsea and Easington. Lectures, exhibitions and food are hosted by Sue and Andrew Wells at Westmere Farm in Kilnsea together with the now famous Saturday evening Hog Roast and lecture. This years talk is being given by Yoav Perlman and titled ‘Israel – Where migration is defined.’

 Across last years festival 124 species of bird were recorded together with other wildlife and the highlight for many was the stunningly close up views of that enigmatic bird called a Wryneck. Up to 3 of these birds were on full view throughout the weekend before continuing their migration to Africa, south of the Sahara.

wryneck-spurn-12-8-11-c

 

Tickets!

Tickets can now be purchased from the Spurn Migration Festival dedicated website www.spurnmigfest.com or by telephoning 01904 659570

Hope to see ya there!

 

Spurn Migration Festival one

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)

 

Balearic Woodchat Shrike – badius

A New Feature?

by Martin Garner

I was very pleased to catch up with the Balearic Woodchat Shrike at Wykeham, North Yorkshire earlier this week. As ever when vagrants get studied closely it raised a question for me. Is there another feature of badius not yet described?

Here’s the boy. Balearic Woodchat Shrike was, at one stage considered possibly not identifiable with certainty by BBRC. A thorough review by Brian Small and Grahame Walbridge (read the paper: Balearic Woodchat Shrike paper ) found and affirmed key characters. Some are visible here on this 1st summer male like the rather thick, slightly bulbous bill, the lack of white at the base of the primaries and possibly pertinent the narrow black band on the forehead (though bearing in mind this will get broader in adult plumage. But there is another feature…

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

The TAIL

Critical in separating Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus) from nominate senator is the amount of white in the tail. (Read the paper Eastern Woodchat Shrike paper)

What if the same applies to badius versus senator? I found no reference to this in a quick search of the key literature.

The Wykeham bird appears to have moulted most of its tail (apart from possibly the outermost t6) to black adult type feathers and yet it also appears to lack the prominent white at the base of some of the outer tail feathers. The outermost tail feathers t6 is obscured and may be a juvenile feather, but I would have expected to see at least some white obvious at the bases of say t5 and t4 if the pattern had been the same as nominate senator (BWP says bases of t2-t5 are white with almost half the feather on t4 being white and much of base of t5 also white). Instead the tail looks essentially all dark.

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Nick Addey

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Brett Richards

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Brett Richards

The tail looks black and does not appear to be a retained juvenile tail- apart from perhaps the outermost feather t6?  But then in flight you can see the more extensive grey over the uppertail coverts with small white rump patch and all dark-looking tail (T6 is mostly hidden under t5).

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Dave Aitken

2cy male Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Wykeham. North Yorkshire, May 2015. Dave Aitken

Ideally I would need to review specimens and see more inflight spread tails of various Woodchat taxa. What do you think? Go ahead have your say...

Compare with this bird recently on the Isles of Scilly-  a male nominate senator taken by Martin Goodey.

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

2cy male nominate Woodchat Shrike, Scilly, May 2015. Martin Goodey

Eastern Woodchat- niloticus

and to complete the set- the even more extensive white at the base of the tail feathers found in niloticus- very rare in NW Europe with no British records… yet!

Notice also the BIG white area over rump and uppertial coverts of niloticus.

male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

tail of male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

tail of male Eastern Woodchat Shrike (niloticus), Eilat, March 2012. Martin Garner

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,

Eugene

yellow wagtail_5080yellow wagtail_5096yellow wagtail_8138yellow wagtail_5074Yellow Wagtail_1332

 

all photos above by Eugene Archer