Category Archives: 19) Flycatchers, Tits to Creepers

Collared Flycatcher – first ever in this plumage in Britain

Sumburgh Head, Shetland 21st September 2015

They continue to surprise us. Of all the birds a new plumage for Britain in a species fraught with agonies over identification and hybrids wasn’t quite expected. With some good fortune all kinds of detail were captured on this stunning autumn male Collared Flycatcher- the first in this plumage type in Britain.

Roger Riddington

J75A0126a

 

At first light on Monday 21st September, there were no migrants at all at Sumburgh Head – or at least not that I could see – and I went to work soon after. At coffee time, Pete Ellis walked round the lighthouse area and found quite a different story: three or four Yellow-browed Warblers (the vanguard of a large arrival – Fair Isle logged 53 that day and there were probably similar numbers in southern tip of Shetland) and two flycatchers:

One Red-breasted Flycatcher and something more intriguing.

Pete phoned me at about 12.15 and he was clearly excited; I can’t remember exactly what he said but something along the lines of ‘there’s an amazing looking flycatcher up here, I think it could be an adult male Collared…’. I jumped in the van and was soon up there to join him, George Petrie and Martin Heubeck watching this stunning little bird. The rain and dull light wasn’t good for photography but we soon had a few record shots of the wing markings and other features.

Like most people, I hadn’t got much idea of what to expect when I first took the call, but found a basically female-like bird, with obvious grey rump and nape shawl and acres of white in the wing. From what literature was easily available, it seemed that Pete was right: everything seemed to fit adult male Collared pretty much spot on, and the news was released 15 or 20 mins later.

Later, back at home with 500+ mostly rubbish photos and a greater range of literature to wade through, the difficulties of black-and-white flycatcher ID became more apparent – but it still looked like an adult male Collared. It’s the first British record for this plumage as far as I’m aware. In terms of ageing, note the black remiges, coverts and tail, the tertial pattern (with a narrow, even fringe around the tip, not a marked step at the shaft) and also the amount of white beyond the primary coverts in the closed wing. In combination, the amount of white in the primaries, tail, median and greater coverts, and forehead helps to rule out Semi-collared and Atlas.

Here’s some pics: (all photos Roger Riddington)

 

J75A0063aJ75A0269aJ75A0345aJ75A0137aJ75A0203aJ75A0376aJ75A0361a

 

Autumn Adult male in the Netherlands in October 2010.

Hi Martin

This is the adult male Collared Flycatcher I found from my daughters bedroom window in October 10th 2010.

Thought you might like these pics
Cheers
Arnold Meijer

This appears to be the first adult male in autumn in ‘NW Europe’ – away from the strictly N/S Scandinavian flyway.

BLUE ROBIN Withalsvliegenvanger Katwijk 101010 Arnold Meijer 287C1611BLUE ROBIN Withalsvliegenvanger Katwijk 101010 Arnold Meijer 287C1534

Collared Flycatcher

and how to overlook one

Easy really! Many young birds are similar enough to Pied Flycatcher as to be very easy to overlook. One of the features to dive in on is the pattern of white at the base of the primaries. but even that can look unremarkable,  partly based on how the wing is folded. If it looks quite extensive and especially if it just a little longer than the tip of the longest primary coverts. Pay Attention!

Henrik Knudsen sent some lovely images of a bird being discussed about 10 days ago (8th Sept) at Blåvand, Denmark. Having caught 50+ Pied Flycatchers already this autumn- this one looked more interesting. The question was it just another Pied or a Collared?

I think it looks really good for Collared which is how I replied to Henrik. He then got back to say he had checked the nape feathers and they were the requisite pattern for Collared not Pied. Cheeky!

I really like the way Henrik’s photos have captured the white patch at the primary bases changing from very obvious and long looking to rather small and uninteresting (but still just longer than the longest primary covert). In fact all quite like the Spurn Collared from late August/ early sept. 2010.

There are still Pied Flycatchers about. A Collared could still be hiding among them.

Here’s the Danish Collared Flycatcher… 8th September 2015, Blåvand, Denmark, all photos by Henrik Knudsen.

NB the big difference in appearance of the white at base of primaries in the first two photos…

Collaref fly 1 (1 of 1) Collaref fly 2 (1 of 1) Collaref fly 3 (1 of 1) Collaref fly 4 (1 of 1)

 

and here’s the Spurn bird from 2010

 

 

 

first winter female Collared Flycatcher, 30th August 2010. Spurn Bird Obs - in Warren bushes. Photo Martin Garner

first winter female Collared Flycatcher, 30th August 2010. Spurn Bird Obs – in Warren bushes. Photo Martin Garner

first winter female Collared Flycatcher, 30th August 2010. Spurn Bird Obs. Illustrating how the white extends beyond the longest primary coverts. A great starting point! Can be pretty subtle in the field.

first winter female Collared Flycatcher, 30th August 2010. Spurn Bird Obs. Illustrating how the white extends beyond the longest primary coverts. A great starting point! Can be pretty subtle in the field. photo: Martin Garner

 

and here’s that nape feather pattern illustrating the difference:

Lots more in THIS blog post  and More AUTUMN COLLAREDS here

Left nape feathers from 1st winter Collared Flycatcher, Fair Isle 8th October 1986, and (right) Pied Flycatcher. Mike Pennington

Left nape feathers from 1st winter Collared Flycatcher, Fair Isle 8th October 1986, and (right) Pied Flycatcher. Mike Pennington

Collared Flycatcher hybrid

with Pied Flycatcher

by Dani Lopez Velasco

papamoscas JS

 

During the last few years, a team of keen Spanish birders has visited the idyllic island of Cabrera, a small islet off Mayorca, in search of rarities. The weather conditions and landscape –as well as the “common” birds – are pretty different to those in most rarity hotspots in western Europe (but I guess similar to Linosa), and birding under blue and sunny skies amidst large falls of migrants is the norm here.

Based on the results of past ringing campaigns, where a number of firsts for Spain have been caught, including sugh megas as Ruppell’s Warbler or Semicollared Flycatcher, we decided to give a first try some springs ago, which ended up in Juan Sagardia, one of our team, finding another first for Spain, a stunning Cretzschmars Bunting. Following that, we´ve made several more 3 day trips, in late April and mid October, producing large numbers of common migrants (and Balearic Warbler is one of the most common birds in the island!), as well as plenty of good rarities including Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (first for Spain) and Hume´s Leaf Warbler (3rd for Spain), Little Bunting, Collared and R-b Flycathers, lots of Y-b Warblers, etc…

fic sp 3 DSC_2195

We´ve come again this year, and on the first morning two days ago, a large fall of ficedula flycatchers took place. Amongst them, a classic female Collared Flycatcher – a rarity here and one of the first females to be identified in the field in Spain- was found and, most interesting, a male showing features of a hybrid Collared x Pied. Separating a hybrid from a male Iberian Piediberiae hereafter – and Atlas Flycatcherspeculigera hereafter- can be challenging or, in certain individuals, especially 2cy, almost impossible based on field marks, although the sound recordings of this individual, with a call very similar to that of a Collared, together with a couple of plumage features, point towards the bird being a hybrid.

fic sp 5 DSC_2192

fic sp 2 DSC_2191

Interesting features of this bird include an all black tail (with an all black T6), hint of a near-complete neck collar (especially obvious in certain angles)- although note that some male iberiae and speculigera can show similar neck collars-, a relatively large white forehead patch and jet-black upperparts.

fic sp 4 DSC_2186papamoscas-vuelo JS

All these features can be shown by both a hybrid and a pure speculigera/iberiae, although, given that the bird seems to be an adult, then the white primary patch is clearly smaller than on the most typical adult speculigera /iberiae (and the white forehead patch is also smaller than on a classic speculigera).

To compare: iberiae Pied Flycatcher

iberiae pied flycatcher Juan Sagardia first summer male

above: First summer male iberiae Pied Flycatcher

below apparent hybrid Collared X Pied Flycatcher

papamoscas2 JS

Call is therefore essential to reach a positive ID, and the plaintive, straight, thin whistle, very similar to Collared, and unlike the typical contact call of Pied, should rule out speculigera and iberiae, thus indicating hybrid origin. A very interesting and educative flycatcher for sure!

I´d like to thank Jose Luis Copete, Andrea Corso, Brian Small, Magnus Hellstrom and Guillermo Rodriguez for their comments on this and other ficedula flycatchers.

fic sp 1 DSC_2193

Northern Treecreeper at Whitburn Coastal Park

13th and 14th October 2014

Thanks to Dave Foster who send photos yesterday afternoon soon after this bird was trapped by John Brown and Jason Thompson at Whitburn Coastal Park. It was re-trapped this morning. These images by Dougie Holden show a nice Northern Treecreeper. Some are even more obvious than this one, but nevertheless the big flaring white supercilium, bright white underparts with very little visible buff smudging in the nether regions and white scapular vanes make for a good ID. There have been a small number in Shetland so far this autumn but not heard of any others on the British East Coast.

More to come?

More on the separation of Northern Treecreeper and British and Continental Treecreepers in the Challenge Series: AUTUMN (of course!)

N Treecreeper Whitburn October 2014N Treeecreeper Whitburn October 2014

Seventeen of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

The find of a lifetime in 2009. Yet why are Taiga Flycatchers still so rare. A fresh look at the subject with surprising new info and an old record comes to light. Taiga and Red-breasted Flycatcher ID- ready for the autumn.

For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

1cy Taiga Flycatcher, September. Mike Weedon.

1cy Taiga Flycatcher, September. Mike Weedon.

Sixteen of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

A wonderful taxon- beautiful and much rare than expected. The road to discovery is to know the common indigenous form. British and the hoar-frosted Northern Treecreeper go under close inspection in chapter sixteen.

For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

Northern Treecreeper, 12th October 2013, Buckton, East Yorkshire. Mark Thomas

Northern Treecreeper, 12th October 2013, Buckton, East Yorkshire. Mark Thomas

Learning albicilla – Taiga Flycatcher variations

Chapter 17th in the new book covers 2 flycatcher species. Each chapter has a QR code which leads to a dedicated website with more material relevant to that chapter. Here then, an example of the kind of ‘extra’ stuff that might be found on the webpages which go with the book. Superb stuff from Magnus – will make you think differently about albicilla– we hope!

 

Magnus Hellström

“Albicilla is not always coloured in the cold greys hues that are shown in the literature ‒ quite frequently buffish tones are present in both breast/belly/flanks and in the edges of coverts and tertials. This is a good lesson to learn in the quest of finding one back home…” 

Adult (2cy+) male albicilla, Beidaihe; China, September.

Adult (2cy+) male albicilla, Beidaihe; China, September. Some adult males show traces of the red throat patch during autumn/winter. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

When the first extralimital Taiga Flycatcher for Europe was discovered here on Öland back in 1998 my first thoughts were something like this: 1: WOW! 2: Oh, they actually breed in Europe!? 3: How do we tell albicilla with certainty from (at the time conspecific) parva? 4: I’m sure it will prove to become a fully regular guest, probably with multiple annual records, in western Europe in the near future… My curiosity had been awakened, and shortly afterwards the Birding World paper by Cederroth, Johansson & Svensson (1999) drew the basic map for us readers. I made some own museum checks to get acquainted with the ID and prepared to find the second one for Öland. Today, 18 years after the first record, we are still trying to find number two… I was very wrong on the last point above – there are still only a handful of sightings of albicilla in western Europe, and I will still think WOW when the next one is found.

Adult (2cy+) female albicilla, Beidaihe, China. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

Adult (2cy+) female albicilla, Beidaihe, China, September. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

My first meeting with albicilla was some years later. My friends and I had been refused to pass the border into Mongolia (apparently it was some kind of holiday for the border staff as they choose to play poker instead of letting people through the gates), so we had to spend an unplanned extra day close by in the Chuya steppe in Russian Altai. We enjoyed breeding Isabelline Shrikes (as well as collurio-hybrids) in the shrubby high-altitude steppe when a small passerine appeared on a branch just in front of me. The black uppertail-coverts seemed to glow, and the ID was very unproblematic. Obviously it was a migrant on its way to the forests up in the north.

First-winter (1cy) albicilla, Beidaihe, China, September. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

First-winter (1cy) albicilla, Beidaihe, China, September. In this individual, note the rather warm edges to the greater coverts. Same goes for the edges of the tertials while the tips are purer greyish white. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

Since then I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy numerous meetings with albicilla, both in rather dense breeding populations and on spring and autumn migration. Spring males with their handsome red throats are beautiful sights, and the other plumages are always interesting to assess with reference to our breeding parva back home. In fact, what I initially thought as a plumage-type with rather low degree of variation, I now regard the ‘non-red-throated’-plumages as distinctly variable, and not seldom quite problematic. Albicilla is not always coloured in the cold greys hues that are shown in the literature ‒ quite frequently buffish tones are present in both breast/belly/flanks and in the edges of coverts and tertials. This is a good lesson to learn in the quest of finding one back home…

Albicilla is not always the cold grey bird that the fieldguides show us. Beidaihe, China, September/October. Photos: Marcus Danielsson and Gabriel Norevik.

Albicilla is not always the cold grey bird that the fieldguides show us. Beidaihe, China, September/October. Photos: Marcus Danielsson and Gabriel Norevik, Beidaihe Bird Observatory.

Other good lessons include the song and call: During early ringing mornings in NE China, while putting up the nets before sunrise, the soundscape always gives a good hint of what the morning is about to bring. The fast rattling calls from albicilla is often one of the dominating elements and, contra the Wren-like call from parva, my reaction when hearing albicilla is always ‘a weak Mistle Thrush’. The species is also a powerful singer, and the first time I run into the male song I actually did not realize it was a flycatcher until I got my eyes on it.

First-winter (1cy) albicilla, Beidaihe, China, October. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

First-winter (1cy) albicilla, Beidaihe, China, October. Photo: Magnus Hellström.

So, being a European breeding bird, why are they so uncommon in western Europe? Who knows, but with recent literature chances for new encounters grow considerably, and with the addition of Challenge Series: Autumn my hopes are that fewer albicilla will pass our bins undetected. Happy birding!