Category Archives: 19) Flycatchers, Tits to Creepers

Tyrrhenian Spotted Flycatcher – new species

Nearby! Have you seen one?

Do they reach Britain?

In case you have not picked up on this one…

In a nutshell the ‘Spotted Flycatchers’  of the Mediterranean may/should be better seen as a full species. They are polytypic (more than one subspecies). NB a FULL SPECIES – different from the Spotted Flycatcher  (ssp striata) which breed in e.g. Britain.

They could of course by visitors as migrants or vagrants to NW Europe – which would be (very!) interesting.

To read the scoop go here: Visit the site

“Accordingly, we suggest that insular Spotted Flycatchers could be treated as one polytypic species (Muscicapa tyrrhenica Schiebel, 1910) that differs from M. striata in morphology, migration, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA and comprises two subspecies (the nominate and M. t. balearica, von Jordans, 1913) that diverged recently phenotypically and in mitochondrial DNA and but still share the same nuclear alleles.”

and read a great paper by me pals Andrea and Miki with photos. go HERE

Thanks v much to Mark Payne who drew attention to the subject and provided some very useful photos. These (below) where taken on Mallorca, Son Real, Can Pinafort in July 2013, so are Balearic race.

Characters: noted to be PALER and LESS STREAKED (even looking unstreaked below).

Spotted Flycatcher b Balearic Mark P (1 of 1)

Spotted Flycatcher Balearic Mark P (1 of 1) Spotted Flycatcher c Balearic Mark P (1 of 1) Spotted Flycatcher d Balearic Mark P (1 of 1)

Above- all photos of the new species of Balearic Spotted Flycatcher by Mark Payne


Blast from the past:

Vaurie- the books that ‘fathered’ BWP look like this on the subject:

vaurie 1 (1 of 1)vaurie 3 (1 of 1)


Baseline ID

I (MG) have looked more for eastern taxa like neumanni. You can read about that exploration on Shetland HERE.  So here is a nice migrant Spotted Flycatcher, I photographed while guiding on Yell, Shetland in October which got asked a few questions of it’s origins. I assume its striata – a baseline for ID for the others taxa.

spotted-flycatcher-cullivoe-3 spotted-flycatcher-cullivoe-4


Collared Flycatcher in NE England?

Slipped under the radar?


Ian Boustead sent these startling images of a May-time (2008) black and white ficedula flycatcher. So please- there are quite a few folk who know nuances of these birds in spring.


What do you think?

Thanks to Ian for a very honest and helpful amount:

“Hi Martin,

The bird was found by Nick Preston in the South Gare Shrike bushes on the 28th May 2008. It arrived in a fall which included a Red-breasted and 7 Spotted Flycatchers.

I arrived down at the Gare the following day after work. The bird had by this time moved to some roadside bushes by the Blast Furnace pools.

There were vague rumours at the time that the bird might possibly be a Collared Flycatcher. The bird was beyond normal DSLR range and I felt it would be prudent to capture as many digiscoped images of the bird as possible. I did not take any notes. I was able to capture 70 digiscoped images in total of the bird. A lot of the images are soft due to camera shake, resulting from the combination of magnification, poor light and exposed viewing area.

On reviewing the images, however, due to the lack of information in the literature I assumed that the lack of a collar in a 2CY male ruled out Collared Flycatcher. It was only seeing the recent articles about the autumn adult male Collared Flycatchers in Shetland (see HERE) and the UAE (see HERE) that the alarm bells started to ring.

From the images, points in favour of Collared Flycatcher:

  • Extent of white primary patch
  • Extent of white above bill
  • Pale rump
  • Outermost tail feather appears to be white along the full length of outer web. (See image below)

Call: Neither Nick nor I heard the bird call (like a Siberian Chiffchaff on Collared Flycatchers).”


from MG:

Both Oscar Campbell an I jumped straight into Collared Flycatcher possibility zone- unsurprisingly. We think (Oscar and I) that:

The white on the p bases looks too deep for any Pied (especially for such an obvious 1st summer  – 2cy) and is clearly reaches close to p2 or p3, way beyond what 1st summer Pied would show.

The clearly extensive white forehead patch and ghost rump look spot on and no problem with a white outer fringe on t6 on the tail for Collared. The most parsimonious answer has got to be that!


The FIRST Collared Flycatcher…

The first Collared Flycatcher in the UAE – and an adult male too


Oscar Campbell, Mark Smiles & Simon Lloyd

Collared Flycatcher UAE 1 (1 of 1)

Black and white Ficedula flycatchers are as rare in the UAE as they are hard to identify. Semi-collared is the most regular with one or two seen most years on spring passage, almost invariably between late March to mid-April.

Black and white ficedula are almost non-existent in autumn, with just one record (and also one for Pied Flycatcher) at that season. For that reason, any autumn Pied-type Flycatcher in autumn here immediately demands attention. A bird glimpsed at Mamzar Park, north of Dubai on 3rd October 2015 just had to be worth tracking down. On 6th October this extremely flighty and slippery individual was relocated and eventually posed for a few photos. What transpired was stunning:

Collared Flycatcher UAE 2 (1 of 1)Collared Flycatcher UAE 3 (1 of 1)All images above © Mark Smiles; below © Simon Lloyd. 6th October 2015

The first impression was that this just had to be the first Collared Flycatcher for the UAE (and there are no Omani records either!) The total lack of white tips on the median coverts pointed away from Semi-collared whilst the amount of white on the basis of the folded primaries was eye-catching and surely had to be beyond what was possible on any nominate or sibrica Pied Flycatcher.

The fairly obvious pale feather tips on the rump forming a ‘ghost’ patch, a rather large and obvious white forehead patch and a hint of a grey wash across the lower nape and neck (more evident in the field, despite fleeting views, than in the images) also seemed to be (softer) features more indicative of Collared. Although the best images obtained of the tertials are a little blurry, it seems likely that this bird is an adult male. The ‘stepped’ tertial tips of a 1w are not evident and the obviously blackish remiges, primary coverts, rectrices and uppertail coverts all contrast markedly with the female-type head and mantle. The Mamzar bird matches fairly well with the September bird from Shetland (featured here), although the white on the head is a little more muted and the extent of white on the primary bases is obviously less (falling well short of the tip of the middle tertial, as opposed to almost reaching it).

Too much white in tail?

One potential problem noted right from the start was the seemingly large amount of white in the tail. Getting any hard clinical details on this proved very difficult on this peculiarly elusive and recalcitrant bird in the field but on 9th October this was finally achieved:

Collared Flycatcher UAE 4 (1 of 1)Collared Flycatcher UAE 5 (1 of 1)

© Simon Lloyd. 9th October 2015

Flight photographs showing the splayed rectrices revealed that the field impression of rather extensive white on the outer tail to be correct with three outer tail feathers exhibiting obvious white on their outer webs. On a spring male Collared Flycatcher this would be bad news and initially we thought we were in trouble. However, illustrations in Krister Mild’s seminal papers in Birding World from way back in 1994 indicated that the tail of male Collared Flycatcher differs in autumn compared to spring and that a narrow white outer web on t4 is actually quite normal in autumn.

The reason for this is yet another delicious layer of complexity in this confusing and perplexing enigmatic group of birds – the partial moult undertaken prior to spring migration actually includes all tail feathers and so replaces the feathers exhibited by our bird with rectrices having much more limited white, giving the typical (almost) all-black tail of an adult (and 2nd calendar year) male Collared Flycatcher. Semi-collared Flycatcher shows a similar strategy but, interestingly, the partial moult of Pied Flycatcher does not normally include any tail feathers. These spread tail shots are more than just ok for Collared; a male Semi-collared would be expected to show obvious white on the inner web of at least t6, whilst (the geographically highly unlikely) Atlas Flycatcher, as far as we can ascertain, seem invariably to have close to an all-black tail (well, at least in spring and summer…).

The spread wing also confirms the extent of the white on the primary bases, definitely reaching the outer web of p3 (and seemingly p2 as well) and this supports aging as an adult male (the majority of 1w Collared males in Mild’s sample show white from p4 or p5 inwards).

Given that is appears to be the first Collared Flycatcher for the UAE, the Emirates Bird Records Committee would be very interested to hear comments from anyone on both the identity and age of this bird. Thanks in advance!

Continental Coal Tit

which features work…

Brett Spencer

Continental Coal Tit, Portland, October 2015. Brett Spencer

Continental Coal Tit, Portland, October 2015. Brett Spencer

MG intro comment:

“I used to suppose the smart and distinctive Coal Tits of the continent could occasionally be detected on Yorkshires’ glorious east coast. I looked, and looked and looked. And any potential migrant Coal TIts look terribly olive on the upperparts and rather ‘British’. British Coal Tit is real and refers to the endemic form britannicus – ‘our Coal Tit’. If you have lived as we did in N. Ireland you even get a third taxon- whoo- hoo. Examples of the ‘Irish Coal tit’ – ssp. hibernicus with its variable yellow cheeks  most developed or present in the west of Ireland but detected elsewhere including our garden in Lisburn.

But hey- Continental Coal Tits DO occur in movements on the English south coast from the near continent. Dungeness and Portland being two observatories where they can be seen. A recent little influx bought several birds. Brett Spencer of the Portland/ Weymouth area takes up the cause. Others Continental birds have occurred in the last couple of weeks. It would be very interesting to know their distribution in the UK.

Where are Continental Coal Tits showing up on the coast and inland this autumn?”

over to Brett Spencer, Portland, Dorset

Portland has no resident Coal Tits and when they do turn up, they’re Continentals. After seeing one on Portland, I came back to Weymouth to an area, not a million miles from Portland and came across a Coal Tit, but this bird was a British one. Very weird how Continentals are very rare in Weymouth, but are the norm on Portland and of course the other way round for British birds, the norm in Weymouth, but rare on Portland.

The Dorset picture for Continental Coal Tit is that it is not an annual occurrence. This is an irruptive species and obviously this is a good year. I think the national picture is not fully understood in terms of numbers and distribution either.

All photos Brett Spencer unless stated:

Continental Coal Tit, Portland, October 2015. Brett Spencer

Continental Coal Tit, Portland, October 2015. Brett Spencer

Key Features of Continental Coal Tits

  • The obvious one are the cold steely blue grey uppers (mantle,back,scapulars) lacking warm olive colour of British birds (only fully applies in autumn not spring).
  • Other features include the more extensive black bib that extends onto upper breast and splays out at the bottom to join the shoulder
  • White cheek patches look slightly bigger too, which may enhance the bigger headed look.
  • More peaked crown, which when raised, produces tiny crest.*
  • The above two features give a bigger headed appearance. Along with the subtly less sullied underparts, they overall look more contrasty/cleaner.
  • Wider nape patch?
  • Tad larger size? (not much field use)

Calls. Subtle differences mooted. More exploring to be done.

 Bit more on the black bib:

A couple of things from my recent experience with these birds is the overlap in bib sizes. Some well marked male British birds probably overlap with poorly marked female Continental birds, but still think it can be used as a guide. Guide being the operative word. Well marked male Continentals are diagnostic I would say in this regard. Also, I think Continentals appear more bull necked than British birds. I do think they appear maybe bigger/bulkier in the field, but this needs to be tested first, as not had direct comparison between the two forms.

Comment: See also note comment added by Martin Vavřík below.

Copy of _MG_1737

Copy of _MG_1789

Continental Coal Tit, Portland, October 2015. Brett Spencer

Continental Coal Tit, Portland, October 2015. Brett Spencer

British Coal Tit – britannicus

To go with my earlier message, my good friend ©Chris Patrick/RNBWS took some photos of British Coal Tits from his garden today (30th Oct. 2015).

The reduced bib of British ‘britannicus’ is clearly evident in these photos and, though on well-marked individuals, it can splay out at the bottom, the black doesn’t reach the shoulders in the way it does on Continental Coal Tit.



Check out the black bib (below) on this British bird (below) versus the bib on the Continental bird (scroll up).IMG_5022

Northern Treecreeper. Be Prepared!

East Coast Stunner from 2013

I want to keep this subject alive! Northern Treecreepers are beautiful and rare. Many folk DON’T realise how rare Northern Treecreepers are nationally in Britain. The identification is covered in Challenge Series: AUTUMN.

Graham Catley, once again has provided another chance to keep learning from Lincolnshire. Apart from a record from North Cotes 1947 – there are zero other records of Northern Treecreepers from this east coast, English county. Amazing! Here then is what seems to be the first modern Lincolnshire record.

14th-15th October 2013, Donna Nook, Lincolnshire

This Treecreeper was trapped by Martin Sizer, all photos by Steve Lorand. thanks indeed to Graham, Martin and Steve. So what do we think? Is it a Northern?

Northern Treecreeper (A)

Above: First look and it appears awesome :). The white feathering on the upperparts looks continuous with the white feathering on the crown. Notice how broad the white supercilium IN FRONT of the eye.

Northern Treecreeper (A)

Above: The wings. Check out how the pale marks in the primaries are pallid, creamy, almost white. Certainly not straw/ yellow etc as on ‘British’ birds.

Northern Treecreeper

Above: Head on Northerns have broad white supercilium zone, not especially pinched right up the front of the snozzle.

Northern Treecreeper (A)

Above: The rump patch on Northerns is paler than on British birds and often stands out as lovely bright pale cinnamon spot. On British Birds the rump doesn’t look the same but looks more concolourous with the rest of the upperparts.

Northern Treecreeper (A)

Above. So lets go… find some more!




Goldcrests- the Undiscovered World

Really?- well hell yes.

YES really. Shetland was mint. Sharon and I even got two goes at Aurora borealis. One night we ‘found’ it for ourselves from our Shetland Nature sorted cottage- one of the most northerly houses in Britain (much further north than that old bus shelter of Unst!)

I have not aurora photo skills much. Garry has. This is taken on that very night from nearby looking north. We saw some nice aurora ‘searchlights’ and a few different colours. Most of all we saw it together (and Sharon found it!)

Aurora borealis from Shetland, October 2015. Garry Taylor

Aurora borealis from Shetland, October 2015. Garry Taylor

Here’s a retreat house at Norwick, Unst. It’s called Millfield. There is only the North Pole after this… see here

The last house in Britain- near enough!

The last house in Britain- near enough!

and when we arrived as dusk came in, one tiny bird was present avidly looking for insects in the grass in front of the cottage. A tiny Goldcrest.  It’s a blurry dark pic but I LOVE this spirit if nature. and he was our Goldcrest 🙂

Goldcrest, Norwick, Unst. October 2015 MG

Goldcrest, Norwick, Unst. October 2015 MG

The next morning more migrants. Blackcaps, also strange to watch as they fed, not in trees but on the lawn… And looked pretty beautiful.

blackcaps n (1 of 1)blackcaps 2 (1 of 1)blackcaps (1 of 1)


Goldcrest Revelations

Our Goldcrest was of course part of huge movement/arrival/fall of Goldcrests in Western Europe. They were the main companion very often to Yellow-browed Warblers.

The Yellow-browed Warblers come a very long way. YET we don’t very often ask where the Goldcrests come from. I am now. Because Peter Colston stirred the pot!

'Continental Goldcrest', Flamborough, October 2015 by Andy Hood.

‘Continental Goldcrest’, Flamborough, October 2015 by Andy Hood.

Above: This is just a stunning image by Andy Hood of Flamborough. It fits what I have always referred to/looked for as ‘Continental Goldcrests’ (Old Witherby Handbook). Well the identifiable ones with nice grey head contrasting wth olive upperparts (compared to insular, indigenous British birds). Varaition in the birds from Scandinavia, means some stand out and others, the grey on the head is obscured by olive and the  features is less obvious; they look no different to British birds.  See Yoav’s pics below of a migrant in Shetland:


So I got to go birding with these guys. How cool is that! The biggest fun was being joined by Peter and Tony. Peter Colston was THE bird skin man at the biggest collection of bird skins in the world- TRING, for many many years. He is rightly famed in many papers etc. He was the man who granted access to me to the museum back in the 1980’s.

WOW! Left to right: Peter Colston, MG, Yoav Perlman, Paul Harvey and Roger Riddington. Toab, Shetland, October 2015

WOW! Left to right: Peter Colston, MG, Yoav Perlman, Paul Harvey and Roger Riddington. Toab, Shetland, October 2015

So up the Geostter Burn we went, our motley crew, chasing a ‘grey’ ficedula Flycatcher, some Goldcrest and one or two Yellow-browed Warblers.

Geosetter Burn, Mainland Shetland, October 2015

Geosetter Burn, Mainland Shetland, October 2015

and Peter points out to me THIS Goldcrest below and his photos of.

I am IN straight away! I do know a little but he immediately waxes lyrical about more easterly taxa coming to Britain.

I  NEVER thought about that. What a dude! So there will be a another post on this later this week. I think and hope you might be a little surprised.

For now notice how the grey is MORE extensive – sort of almost reaching into the middle of the mantle.

extrs grey Goldcrest, Geosetter Burn, Shetland. October 2015. Peter Colston

extra grey Goldcrest, Geosetter Burn, Shetland. October 2015. Peter Colston


Another Goldcrest post to follow soon…

Northern Treecreeper in Lincolnshire

and a BBRC rarity

This is just a ‘pointer post’ to send you to Graham Catley’s

PEWIT BLOGSPOT – so you can his Northern Treecreeper photos and be ready to find your own. It’s a very are bird in Lincolnshire based on past records…

Northern Treecreepers are now an official BBRC rarity. That’s because they appear to be… rare. Find one you’ve scored!

Graham Catley on quick check: Past Lincs avifaunas are as follows:

Smith and Cornwallis 1952
Treecreepers occur occasionally on the coast and an example of the Northern race was obtained at North Cotes in March 1947 shot by Dr J M Harrison
Atkin and Lorand 1989
No additions

2013 Donna Nook one trapped October 14th – 15th

So CLICK here to see more of this bird by Graham:


so = RARE!

Thanks as ever to GPC.