Author Archives: Martin Garner

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European Lesser Whitethroat

 

 nominate curruca

With a fair bit of talk about blythi- Siberian Lesser Whitethroat- on the blog recently I felt the need to bring some basics; helped by this little fella on my patio a few days ago. I can’ be 100% sure but this fits my search image for European Lesser Whitethroat just fine. I think that’s what it is (as opposed to Siberian).

Compare with THIS BIRD and info

Here’ s a little showcase of what the common expected taxon looks like- to help me be prepared for the rare stuff. For more on separating European, Siberian and Desert Lesser Whitethroats see The Challenge Series: AUTUMN.

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough with freshly caught 'daddy long legs'

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough with freshly caught ‘daddy long legs’

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. Nominate birds tend to look greyer headed with whiter underparts

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. Nominate birds tend to look greyer headed with whiter underparts

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. In profile

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. In profile

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. From behind can still show brown up the nape so field views at variety of angles important to gain overall impression of plumage

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. From behind can still show brown up the nape so field views at variety of angles important to gain overall impression of plumage

Lesser Whitethroat 16th September, Flamborough. A few days earlier a scruffy bird in Old Fall hedge. tail feathers moulting- just shows what can be caught on camera with a bit of luck :)

Lesser Whitethroat 16th September, Flamborough. A few days earlier a scruffy bird in Old Fall hedge. tail feathers moulting- just shows what can be caught on camera with a bit of luck :)

Buff-bellied Pipit

at Flamborough?

17th September 2014

Martin Garner

Just over a week ago. I was doing what’s called the ‘Old Fall circuit and was on the south side of the outer headland at Flamborough. The previous 20 minutes had been full of interest. A stunning dark morph juvenile Honey Buzzard had given lovely views as it spiralled south out over the sea. Then a line of Greenlandish Wheatears and Whinchats were sat along a fence line in classic autumn pose.
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I then picked up a lone pipit on the crest of  the next , south of the ‘gorse field’.
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buffy four
Looked through bins and instantly thought: “looks like a Buff-bellied PIpit!” What! No really that was my first thought. No hesitation.
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 Through bins I could see really rich buff underparts- strongest colour in breast region but extending over the whole of the underparts. Bold streaking was present but limited to (upper) breast; couldn’t actually make any streaking out below this- certainly no ‘lines’ along the flanks were visible. It looked like no Meadow Pipit- and I have seen and photographed some colourful and wacky ones.
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It had an ‘open face’  with a big buffy supercilium running into obvious eye ring.
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The pattern of the coverts was instantly familiar with big ‘loose-looking’ greater coverts caused by a broad fringe all around feathers – an Meadow Pipit there is usually amore obvious wing bar.
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I grabbed for my camera knowing it could just about capture details I struggled to see through binoculars. Unfortunately it can be very hard to get auto zoom to focus on such small image. I fired off 6 shots and then it flew. It got into brief chase with Meadow Pipit and disappeared over the cliff edge.
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I immediately radioed a message to local birders along the lines of “come and help me look for a bird that I thought ‘looked good for Buff-bellied Pipit’ – crazy as it sounds!”
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Here’s the best of the pics. Only 2 poses were captured- in profile and facing- these are the best.
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buffy two

Here’s what it looked like through camera and blown up:

buffy 8buffy 7

Six other birders joined in the search. Most Meadow Pipits (40 plus) were in an adjacent grass field which was out-of-bounds. No further sightings.

This was the peak time of Icelandic Meadow Pipits to move through the east coast, plus the unusually presence of obvious Greenland Wheatears

Played this game before

I had the same reaction only once before. ‘Looks just like a Buff-bellied Pipit’:

Here’s what I wrote in October 2011 on finding a Buff-bellied Pipit with Paul Harvey, Roger Riddington and Brian Small:

…Only taking a few more steps I noticed a movement amongst the cattle-chewed vegetables, put my binoculars onto it to see a bird that looked just like a Buff-bellied Pipit! It’s hard to say why it seemed rather obvious, the bird was in full view and not far away. I think partly I was fully genned up having made daily checks of numerous Meadow and regular Rock pipits for this very species. I had even made an excursion out onto the wild west side of Unst with Brydon T and our Shetland Nature group little more than a week earlier, specifically looking for Buff-bellied Pipit. Thus I had a high level of current familiarity with the common species.
Having made the initial shock assessment, I looked again and ticked off ‘big open face’, ‘rich apricot buff underparts’, ‘broad diffuse buffy wingbars’ and crucially the clinching feature for me; incredibly plain upperparts. I turned and none of the other three, now a field away, were looking in my direction. I didn’t dare shout, so I looked back at the bird, it was still there and it still looked just like a Buff-bellied Pipit. I turned around, praying now that someone would be looking my way, and thankfully Paul was. I waved frantically and all three were soon up and straight onto the bird. It took a moment for their shock to subside but all quickly concurring around a common thought- it really was one!

Here photos of the 2011 bird on Shetland, with more of a write up HERE

Buff-bellied Pipit , Quendale, October 2011. Phil Woolen

Buff-bellied Pipit , Quendale, October 2011. Phil Woolen

Buff -bellied Pipit Quendale, October 2011. Mark Payne

Buff -bellied Pipit Quendale, October 2011. Mark Payne

 

Buff-bellied Pipit , Quendale, October 2011. Phil Woolen

Buff-bellied Pipit , Quendale, October 2011. Phil Woolen

Comments from friends on the Flamborough photos. A couple of folk wondered if a wacky Meadow Pipit could be eliminated- though my field impression was far from that. The majority thought…

Wow! It does look really good….that was my first impression from your Twitter photo and still is my feeling now based on face pattern and coverts plus general colour.

 My first impression on seeing your photo was Buff-bellied but I am not sure the photos alone are enough. Hard to see what else it could be (although the photos look a bit pinky and it’s hard to be sure what the lores are so could it be a moulting adult water Pipit?).

Hmm, pfff (:-)) It almost looks like a summer plumage…!? rich-buffy breast, greyish upperparts, no obvious flank-streaking? Anyway it certainly looks very interesting. Summer plumage Water Pipit maybe comes close but how odd would that be…! And maybe bill looks too small too for Rock/Water Pipit.

It looks like a Buff-Bellied Pipit to me. And it sounds as though that’s what it was.
The wing bars look very pro-BB, although personally I think that median covert bar is more obviously pro-BB and anti-MP than the greater-covert bar. 

 

 

 

Filey Bird Report 2013

Now and Happening!

review by David Campbell

 

Situated between Flamborough Head and Scarborough, Filey is coveted as one of the finest birding locations on the Yorkshire coast. The recording area list is peppered with a number of terrific rarities, and seasoned birders are quite likely to have visited, perhaps for Britain’s first Spectacled Warbler in 1992. Filey has a devoted band of enthusiasts in the form of Filey Bird Observatory and Group (FBOG) who work tirelessly to record and conserve the birds and wildlife of this important site by, among other activities, managing habitat, ringing and expeditiously producing an annual report. FBOG’s 2013 Filey Bird Report, the 37th edition, produced by a small team of volunteers, comes in a new large format and has been overhauled from cover to cover.

Layout 2

 

The front cover provides instant enticement to delve in, with a pleasing design driven by a collection of 14 high quality images of birds taken at Filey in 2013, both common and scarce. The Species List section is generously decorated with Colin Wilkinson’s charming and talented artwork, some pieces colour, and others monochrome; the written content of the Systematic List, meanwhile, is fascinating – 225 species treated in good detail when it comes to first and last dates, high counts and visible migration totals. The section is well-treated with tables presenting data predominantly covering peak day-counts, visible migration and seawatching figures.Duskypage

 

Despite the report being published in full colour, none of its many high quality bird photographs are scattered within Species List; instead, ‘Birds in Profile’ includes 41 good-sized images including some of Filey’s commoner species along with many of 2013’s scarcity highlights. This section is at once beautiful and sickening to peruse – if only we were all lucky enough to have a patch like Filey! A number of other photographs are found in the ‘Annual Review’ – a traditional synopsis of the ornithological year at Filey – and in ‘A year at Filey’, a collection of well-written articles detailing some of the most significant finds of 2013, as well as pieces on garden birding, cetaceans and breeding auks. Among the articles are accounts of the discoveries of two firsts for Yorkshire – Black-headed Wagtail and Brünnich’s Guillemot – and these make for gripping reading, especially as neither bird remained for long.

BrunnichsFBR1

 

Sections towards the back of the report deliver summaries of the other wildlife recorded at Filey in 2013. Butterfly records are looked at month-by-month while dragonfly records are organised by species. Overviews are also given for plants and mammals and it is heartening to see FBOG accumulating a wealth of data on an array of non-avian species.

AnnualFBR1

 

A ringing review adds to the glut of information so neatly packed into the 136 page publication and includes details of recoveries alongside ringing totals. Although a key is provided for different types of recovery, an explanation for age/sex codes has been omitted and may lead to confusion for non-ringing readers. Although the general lack of migrants trapped is bemoaned in this section, crippling images of Red-breasted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler in the hand make you think that they could have had it worse!

 

The 2013 Filey Bird Report is, all in all, very aesthetically pleasing, accessible and jammed full of useful information, particularly for an east coast birder. The passion and skill that has so clearly gone into putting the report together is admirable and the new edition easily qualifies as the benchmark for other local reports to aim for. All proceeds from the sales of the report go directly to the work of FBOG, and at £8, the report is a steal for its professional-style quality. It is truly up there with the best bird reports, and is worthy of a slot on the bookshelf of any collector or those with an interest in the birds of the east coast and beyond.

 

David Campbell

 

Now available for only £8 (plus p+p) from the Filey Bird observatory website HERE

Baltic Gull Chronicles

at Flamborough, September 2014

We keep exploring!

Martin Garner

 

After a record-breaking year for Caspian Gulls at Flamborough (c15 at least in Aug-Sept this year including 5 ringed birds- c 10 previous records in total) Baltic Gulls entered the stage again. The population is recovering and increasing after a ‘crash’. The chances of finding more individual in identifiable plumages and ringed birds is going back up.

 

Enter 12th September, Flamborough Golf Course. Top of the list was a juvenile type with white darvic ring and black lettering which I found in the evening of 12th September. Other observers got on to it including Craig Thomas, Andy Malley, Brett Richards and Phil Cunningham. Unfortunately distant and in fading light in evening gull roost we couldn’t read the letters and numbers though Craig had a rough go and thought maybe something … F or P 2nd letter.  4 numbers/ letters. Trouble is the darvic is on the wrong leg! Most Swedish/Finnish ringed fuscus have the darvic place on the left leg- right leg on this bird (thanks to Hannu Koskinen). What does it mean?

I then found another stunning looking juvenile unringed 2 days later (14th September) in the field behind our house. This one looks as cool if not better than the ringed bird. We haven’t finished with these yet. Thanks especially to Chris Gibbins and Hannu Koskinen for all their input.

14th September 2014

candidate fuscus fuscus 14.9.14a juv fuscus 14th September 2014a juv fuscus d 14th September 2014a juv fuscus b 14th September 2014

14th ssept 2014

 

 2 days earlier…  12th September 2014

The boy with the darvic ring- right leg (and metal ring on left leg)

12th september 2014 juv fuscus white darvic 1410547500068 1410549661971

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Migfest Prize Quizbird Competition

All Ten of Them

Thanks to all who had a go at this Migration Festival Quiz.

All 10 birds were in their first calendar year (juveniles or first winters). Well I can’t age Wrynecks- but I bet it was! The rest have age-able plumage characters.

The answers were:

1    Arctic Tern    Sterna paradisaea
2    Common Tern    Sterna hirundo
3    Common Swift    Apus apus
4    Long-tailed Skua    Stercorarius longicaudus
5    Common Buzzard    Buteo buteo
6    Mediterranean Gull    Larus melanocephalus
7    Black-headed Gull    Chroicocephalus ridibundus
8    Wryneck    Jynx torquilla
9    Barred Warbler    Sylvia nisoria
10  Pied Flycatcher    Ficedula hypoleuca
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Well done to all who had a go. The following 5 people got all 10 species correct
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Chris Batty
Kayn Forbes
Andrew Kinghorn
Janne Riihimäki
Pim Wolf
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and drawn from a hat, the winner of the NEW BOOK is….
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Janne Riihimäki of Finland. Well done!
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For more on the tricky ID’s such as this juvenile Common Swift- see The Challenge Series: AUTUMN
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a juv Common Swift MG 14 aug 2014

Fea’s Petrel

‘nough said

Picked up by Andy Malley and  Brett Richards most of the ensemble at Flamborough were delighted. Thanks guys. I rushed off to find signal in the hope that those further north would score too. The resulting communications via social media and ‘twitches’ to watchpoints along the east coast meant the wheeling pterodroma was recorded at multiple sites by lots of people. A triumph for modern birding  and AT LAST a British record for me :) Photos skilfully phonescoped by Mark Newsome off Whitburn Fea's type Whitburn 210914 M Newsome

Happy chaps

 

flamborough 21 sept 14 feas

 

also rans:

2 Balearic Shearwaters, Long-tailed Skua, Blue Fulmar, nearly 300 Sooty Shearwater and an adult Sabine’s Gull nearby off Buckton. More on the Flamborough Bird Obs site

ble fulmar 21 9 14 sooty

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat. blythi update

DNA confirms they DO occur earlier (as suspected)

Sticking one’s neck out can be a bit risky. Claiming Siberian Lesser Whitethroats in the first week of September might sound a bit rash. Yet the characters seemed to be there. One bird at Spurn over the Migration Festival and one at Flamborough 7th-8th Sept.

Why so cool (BTW)?

It’s got SIBERIAN in the name and molecular data suggests blythi should be treated as different species from European nominate birds. And they are a great ID challenge.

Here’s the Flamborough bird again:

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat Flamborough 8th Sept 2014

More on the Flamborough bird is here

Lots more on identifying Siberian and Desert Lesser Whitethroat in THIS BOOK!

Peter de Knijff sent a most encouraging email with this remarkable news:

A Siberian Lesser Whitethroat was trapped and confirmed by DNA in the Netherlands on 26/27th August 2014.  Very cool!

A second bird also reported as DNA confirmed blythi in Europe in August. So we were on the money. As autumn progress more blythi will occur and less nominate curruca. Are you ready?

There have been a scattering of records of apparent candidates in the last week inc. in east Scotland (Darren Woodhead), Filey (Mark Pearson) and Norfolk (Richard Milllington. Where will yours be? :)

Some shots of the Spurn bird on 7th Sept by Sam Viles:

ELWELW 6ELW 4

 

One at Portland Bird Observatory on 13th September this year proved interesting. Thanks to Joe Stockwell and Martin Cade for their input. This bird had less striking plumage than the Spurn and Flamborough birds (though think prob. OK for blythi) and short p2. Martin does a superb job at photographing birds in the hand.

bp_lwt_130914_whole_4bp_lwt_130914_open_wing bp_lwt_130914_tail bp_lwt_130914_closed_wing bp_lwt_130914_wing_point_1

He does a very useful thing with white balance settings in the last 3 shots. This illustrates that photos can be quite misleading. Appearance in the field is what counts- more tips on watching and fieldcraft with Lesser Whitethroats in the Challenge Series: AUTUMN

bp_lwt_130914_whole_3 bp_lwt_130914_whole_2 bp_lwt_130914_whole_1