Category Archives: 25) Birds around the World

Gambell, Alaska in September 2014

Outstanding outpost for North American Birders

Paul Lehman

Paul’s been writing of rather gripping exploits once again on his favourite autumn patch on Gambell. And if you fancy an ID challenge there’s one of those giant Bean Geese thrown in to the mix. Of course it’s ‘carrier’ species isn’t the same as ours¬†ūüėČ ¬†read on…

“We have all sorts of good photos of stuff this fall¬† both Asian and North American…

Red-flanked Bluetail. 30th September 2014. Gambell, Alaska. Paul Lehman

Red-flanked Bluetail. 30th September 2014. Gambell, Alaska. Paul Lehman

There has also been a slug of good birds farther to the south at the Pribilofs, also with excellent photos, ¬†(things like Siberian Chiffchaff, Red-flanked Bluetail, Gray-streaked Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, Dusky Warbler, Jack Snipe, Garganey, Common Rosefinch, etc.–though not any great North American strays like we have had).

BTW,¬† we’ve had some very good Asian species this year (e.g., 2 Tree Pipits, Yellow-browed and 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Brown Shrikes, Common Rosefinch, Eurasian Hobby, the goose, juvenile Red-necked Stints) and even some better North American waifs–which would obviously make big Eastern Palearctic news if someone ever saw them in Russia:¬† NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD, Red-eyed Vireo, Mourning Warbler, Least and Alder Flycatchers, Rusty Blackbird, Townsend’s Warbler, etc.

Then on 30th September on the ABA blog:

“News from western Alaska, Paul Lehman and company found a number of noteworthy birds highlighted by an ABA Code 4 Red-flanked Bluetail and also including Rustic Bunting (3) and two Little Buntings (4), at Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island. Read more


Bean Goose Identification:

We found a Bean-Goose this afternoon (16th September), below Troutman Lake, flying by
with an Emperor Goose.  See one of my photos, attached. The bird was
HUGE–seemingly 1-1/2 times the size of the Emperor in both body bulk
and wingspan when observed in the field. And the bill shape looks

BIG Bean Goose with Emperor Goose. But which taxon  (or even which species?). 16 September 2014. Paul Lehman

BIG Bean Goose with Emperor Goose. But which taxon (or even which species?). 16 September 2014. Paul Lehman


juvenile Red-necked Stint late August 2014. Paul Lehman

juvenile Red-necked Stint late August 2014. Paul Lehman

juvenile Red-necked Stint late August 2014. Paul Lehman

juvenile Red-necked Stint late August 2014. Paul Lehman


Wood Warbler, 19th September 2014. Paul Lehman

Wood Warbler, 19th September 2014. 

Siberian Accentor, 19th September 2014. Paul Lehman

Siberian Accentor, 19th September 2014. Paul Lehman


Bermuda phylloscopus Warbler: Another look

and listen!

Martin Garner and David Cooper

The phylloscopus warbler found wintering on Bermuda has already attracted enormous interest. With zero phylloscopus previously recorded on the east coast of North America- what was it and where was it from?

The slightly confusing mix of characters visible in photos including active wing moult leading to some head scratching. Only Willow Warbler and Arctic Warbler are normally in active pre-breeding moult and when the calls were finally captured it was sorted- an Arctic Warbler. I think the general assumption too was that it was a Eurasian bird- of the nominate form ‚Äėborealis‚Äô, least that was in MG’s head.

See the Original Post asking for help with ID (before sound recorded)


More images were added HERE


Then after sound recording the ID conclusion was written up HERE Bermuda Arctic Warbler the Bermuda Arctic Warbler Рbut which taxon and from where?


The call never sounded right. That‚Äôs to say that one of the best places to see Arctic Warbler this side of the pond in autumn is Shetland. And they always or nearly so give a single dipper-like slightly raspy call ‚Äėdzik‚Äô. A single note. The Bermuda Warbler often/ most frequently gave a double note. I checked with Roger Riddington and Paul Harvey who have seen lots of Arctic Warblers. Invariably only uttering single notes bar one late bird 2 autumns ago which occasionally gave a double note. ¬† ¬† XC168678-Phylloscopus Warbler Bermuda (1).png double n single Sonagram of Bermuda Arctic Warbler giving both single and double notes XC168678-Phylloscopus Warbler Bermuda (1)Sonagram of Bermuda Arctic Warbler giving typical¬†double notes


With David Cooper, we began to compare the Bermuda bird with other ‚ÄėArctic Warbler‚Äô taxa. We started with the 3 way split including borealis, examinandus and xanthodryas. See the paper explaining the split. It sounded closest to examinandus, but not quite right (better heard than looking at double note sonogram.). The Bermuda bird was then compared with calls of the Alaskan form kennicotti. Bingo/ snap. At least we think so.

Have a listen look at sonograms, consider the very late extra yellow visible on the Bermuda bird.

Listen to: Kamchatka Leaf Warbler examinandus, Arctic Warbler borealis and Japanese Leaf Warbler xanthodryas  >>> HERE <<< 

Listen to: Alaskan kennicotti >>> HERE <<<

Listen to: the Bermuda Arctic warbler >>> HERE <<<

Oh and if kennicotti can reach BermudaРa shorter distance, great circle route could take kennicotti to… Shetland, or the Outer Hebrides or pretty much anywhere in Britain. #just saying.


Williamson (1962) states ‚ÄėP. borealis is a variable species, and the only forms which show any degree of constancy are kennicotti and xanthodryas, and these are valid on bill-structure as much as colouration.
P. borealis kennicotti
This race is similar to borealis, though perhaps yellower below. It has a weak bill more like that of Greenish. Vaurie gives the following measurements: wing 62-69, bill 12.5-14.5; first-winter birds are often smaller.
Maybe that’s why some plumped for Greenish Warbler?

Alaskan kennicotti and taxonomy?

One might further ask the question¬†whether¬†the taxonomy of Kennicott’s Warbler...¬†kennicotti needs a re-appraisal…

Bermuda Phyllosc-DSC_9675 The Bermuda Arctic WarblerРbest fit kennicotti...   XC140995-Arctic Warbler2013-6-9-3 kennicotti 2 kennicotti Arctic Warbler XC140993-Arctic Warbler2013-6-9-1 kennicotti 4 kennicotti Arctic Warbler. Sonagram and sound virtually identical to Bermuda phyllosc. XC140994-Arctic Warbler2013-6-9-2 kennni 94kennicotti Arctic Warbler- some recordings contain single notes too


Akihiro Sakuma from Japan kindly commented as follows::

Oh! It’s very difficult to identify what ‘ Arctic Warbler ‘.
But for me¬† it seems to be ‘kennicotti ‘.

‘borealis‘ upperparts ¬†are more dark green colour and underparts dusky
without yellowish, and also some streaks on its breast.
But this ‘Arctic Warbler’ s underparts yellowish and without streaks on its

‘examinudus’ also has yellowish underparts but is not smart proportion like
this ‘Arctic Warbler’
And this ‘Arctic Warbler’ call is not like ‘examinandus’ ( Kamchatka Leaf

So I think this¬† Arctic Warbler ‘ is¬† ‘kennicotti ‘,¬† and¬† as¬† its
underparts and supercilium are yellowish, it seems to be 1st winter .

Bermuda Phyllosc-DSC_9691

Bermuda Phylloscopus — final chapter?

Thanks to some persistence from Wendy Frith, who finally got some audio recordings, it appears that the identification of the Phylloscopus warbler on Bermuda has been nailed down: Arctic Warbler. Andrew Dobson has photos and audio links in his eBird checklist, which also gives a nice sense of the other birds at the site. Obviously some defended this identification at the outset. With the benefit of hindsight, please do add your comments to how this might have been identified if the audio recordings had not been obtained.

For those that use eBird for record keeping worldwide, please note how photos, audio recordings, and field notes can be combined on a checklist like this, which also contributes to your personal record keeping and global database. For example, here is the ever growing range map for Arctic Warbler. Your additional records will help to make this map (and others) even more complete.

This is a new record for Bermuda and the first record for Arctic Warbler on the North American side of the Atlantic Basin. If anything, this record has been instructive (for us North Americans anyway!) as to just how difficult some Phylloscopus can be and just how important the calls are to confirming the identification. Congratulations to our Bermuda colleagues who stuck with this one and finally nailed it!

Here is one of Andrew’s more recent photos, but do be sure to check out the full set.

Bermuda Arctic Warbler

Bermuda Phylloscopus — additional images

Andrew Dobson provided this more extensive set of images from his original observation of the Bermuda Phyllscopus. He reports that no one has yet heard it vocalize, but they will keep trying. Hopefully the bird will be around for a while longer and complete its molt!

In the meantime, here are more photos to discuss:

DSC_9705 DSC_9681 DSC_9704 DSC_9695 DSC_9690 DSC_9682 DSC_9680 DSC_9678

That PRZEVALSKI‚ÄôS REDSTART (ŤīļŚÖįŚĪĪÁļĘŚįĺťł≤) at Lingshan!

Just so beautiful – this is Terry’ story¬†I am just poaching

PRZEVALSKI’S REDSTART, Lingshan, 19 February 2014.

PRZEVALSKI’S REDSTART, Lingshan, 19 February 2014.

So with no apologies from (MG)- another pic of what is a new bird name for me. I posted my first Chinese characters too ūüôā – and who doesn’t like REDSTARTS– especially Eastern ones?

Go directly to Terry Townshend’s site for MORE new photos!

……………………>>>>¬†Beijing Birding¬†<<<<


Winter Birding in New Jersey, USA

By Tony Davison

The Sea Duck of Barnegat Jetty and Avalon, NJ, USA.

From the 7th to the 13th February, along with three birding friends, I visited New Jersey and specifically Barnegat Jetty, Avalon and the Cape May Peninsular. Our quest was to try and photograph the variety of Scoter and other Sea Duck that frequent the area. There is also a regular flock of Harlequin Duck off Barnegat and these offered even more excitement. It was also my first birding trip to the USA and so I knew I was in for a treat and a rack of new birds.

During the week we also visited Stone Harbor, Brigantine and various sites along Cape May for woodland birds and none Wildfowl. We were blessed with great weather until the 13th Feb, when all hell broke loose with an ice storm, strong wind & heavy snow, at least 10 inches fell in the New York area. Life still went on though and as normal and despite a three hour delay on our return flight, we managed to get out before the real bad weather hit the area.

The sea duck were simply incredible with thousands of Black Scoter off shore at Barnegat and Avalon, emitting their eerie¬†“cooing call notes”, hundreds of Long-tailed Duck or Oldsquaw as they are affectionately know, also emitting a strange “Yodelling” sound that carries some distance¬†and close quarter encounters with Harlequin and¬†Surf Scoter. A¬†few White-winged Scoter and plenty of Common Loon, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Scaup, American Herring Gull and a large flock of very friendly Purple Sandpiper, on the Jetty at Barnegat. All¬†made for some tremendous photographic opportunities.

Barnegat Jetty, Long Island, NJ, USA - Tony Davison

Barnegat Jetty, Long Island, NJ, USA – Tony Davison

Barnegat jetty

Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, NJ is located at the northern end of Long Beach Island and the Barnegat Jetty is a MUST-VISIT destination during the cold winter months. The Jetty is effectively a sea defence wall built of huge granite boulders and juts out into the sea for about a mile. Once out at the end it was like the arctic, with a freezing cold wind chill factor but some remarkable birding sights. The main attraction are the wintering Harlequin Ducks but there are also many other sea ducks that offer close quarter viewing. The Blue Mussels are the food attraction to the sea duck, and the rocks are covered in them. We visited Barnegat twice during our stay and on the second visit, we had some remarkable views of a flock of 35 Surf Scoter of varying ages.

The first birds to be encountered on the jetty are the American Herring Gulls, in a variety of age and plumage.

Adult winter American Herring Gull - Barnegat Jetty - Tony Davison

Adult winter American Herring Gull – Barnegat Jetty – Tony Davison

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Adult Great Black-backed Gull - Barnegat Jetty - Tony Davison

Adult Great Black-backed Gull – Barnegat Jetty – Tony Davison

Then came the variety of sea duck and in particular, the incredible “Harlies” of the feathered kind, rather than machine kind!! Stunningly beautiful birds, apart from the females!!

Adult female Harlequin Duck off Barnegat Jetty - Tony Davison

Adult female Harlequin Duck off Barnegat Jetty – Tony Davison

Above five images - Adult Drake Harlequin - Barnegat Jetty - Tony Davison

Above images – Adult Drake Harlequin – Barnegat Jetty – Tony Davison


Adult drake Bufflehead - Barnegat Jetty - Tony Davison

Adult drake Bufflehead – Barnegat Jetty – Tony Davison

Above three images  American Black Scoter off Barnegat Jetty Tony Davison

Above three images American Black Scoter off Barnegat Jetty Tony Davison


LTDuck-05083800 LTDuck-13043828 LTDuck-13233829Above three images  Drake Long-tailed Duck Barnegat Jetty Tony Davison


Surf-Scoter-32073843 Surf-Scoter-32373844Above three images  Surf Scoter  Barnegat Jetty  Tony Davison

Red-B-Merg-04903799Drake Red-breasted Merganser  Barnegat Jetty  Tony Davison


RBMerg-054238021st winter drake Red-breasted Merganser  Barnegta Jetty  Tony Davison

Purple-Sand-06003805 Purple-Sand-05843804Above two images Purple Sandpiper  Barnegat Jetty Point  Tony Davison

Another site that we visited several times was Avalon, situated between The Wildwoods Township and Atlantic City. Avalon and Stone Harbor share a barrier island named Seven Mile Beach and Avalon comprises the north side of the island. The area is a huge sea bay that attracts thousands of Scoter and other sea duck. The Jetties offer the best spots for viewing but accessing them without disturbing the birds is very tricky. Extreme care needs to be taken when walking on the Jetty Stones. We viewed from the main Jetty over-looking Townsends Inlet and encountered thousands of Black Scoter, with smaller numbers of Surf and White-winged Scoter including one superb male. Hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks were also mixed in. The calls of the birds could immediately be heard as we got out the car on arrival. A fantastic sound and site, once we started viewing.


A view of Avalon Bay  Tony Davison

Avalon-07633853Avalon Jetty  Tony Davison

WWScoter-drake-19913836Drake White-winged Scoter  Avalon  Tony Davison

Scoter-18663835Part of the Scoter flock off Avalon  spot the 2 WWS  Tony Davison

GNDiver-14373834Common Loon Tony Davison

Brant-33033848Brant  Tony Davison

A fantastic trip to a beautiful part of the world. Thank goodness the weather was on our side otherwise it would have been a completely different story.

Blackthroat, an Asian enigma resolved

José Luis Copete

The Blackthroat: Confirmation the species was still alive in 2004. First field photos in May 2011 (see below). Recent expeditions add information on calls, plumages, especially of almost unknown females and habitat preferences. DNA studies illumine taxonomy and assigned to latin genus Calliope not Luscinia. More:

One of the most enigmatic species from Asia is the Blackthroat (Calliope obscura, formerly considered inside the genus Luscinia). During decades it was unknown the breeding and wintering ranges, even to know whether it was a truly valid species and not a plumage variant of the Firethroat (C. pectardens). During many years there were only a couple of records, from the description of the species in the decade of 1890. A couple of birds collected between the end of XIX century and beginnings of XX century in the Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, in C China. After that, a few records in Sichuan and Yunnan, in south China, and north Thailand. The latter regions, considered birds in the wintering range.

To get an idea how enigmatic is the species because so few records known, a look at the very big Threatened Birds of Asia, a huge work published in two volumes in 2001, present all the published or known records of all species with some category of conservation by the IUCN, reveals only half a page for the Blackthroat, when for the rest of species they invariably show several pages. It’s worth of mention that one of these few records concerns a female observed in Doi Inthanon, a few kms down of the first checkpoint, a place well known for most of birders visiting Thailand.

It was not until 2004 when was published a birdguide showing the bird species recorded in the markets of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan (Wang 2004 A photo guide of cage birds in Sichuan. Chengdu: Sichuan Science and Technology Press). In that book appears an image of a live male, in the hand, photographed before 2004, but surely not many years ago. So, it was a confirmation that the species was still alive.

The BOOM arrived in 2011, when two Chinese birders, Wei Qian and He Yi, obtained the first pictures in the field, a superb male in spring migration, on 2nd May, on the campus of Chengdu University (Qian & Yi 2011 First images in the wild of Blackthroat Luscinia obscura, Asia’s most enigmatic robin. BirdingASIA 15: 17-19). Some of the images presented in that note are available at the images database of Oriental Bird Club.

After that, an specific survey in the Qinling Mountains to try to find the breeding region of the species was developed, was successful. These expeditions, lead by Gang Song, Per Alström (who is working as invited professor in Beijing straight now), Yongwen Zhang and some others, obtained a good amount of information about vocalizations, plumage variations, including excellent descriptions and pictures of the female plumage, almost unknown, the specific habitat it occupies for breeding, as well as diverse data about its breeding biology, distribution and conservation status. All this info is now in press in Journal of Ornithology (Gong et in press Rediscovery of an enigmatic Chinese passerine, the Blackthroat Calliope obscura: plumage, vocalizations, distribution, habitat choice, nesting and conservation. J Ornithol DOI 10.1007/s10336-013-1009-5).

Thus, this species is nowadays ‚Äėtwitchable‚Äô on specific trips, in the Changqing and Foping reserves, where several western birders already visited the region to try to tick the species, obtaining at the same time very good photographs, some of them already available at the OBC image database.

It breeds at altitudes betweeb 2100 and 2500 m, in pure bamboo extensions, or mixed with deciduous forest. It seems to be absent of the pure conifer forests. These observations suggest the species is not breeding in Sichuan and Yunnan.

Apart from the previous, the same team also published few weeks ago in the issue of Forktail, a confirmation of the validity of the species. It shows a divergence of 6,4% in mtDNA between obscura and pectardens, a similar distance shown by other Turdini species. The vocalizations are also different, adding arguments to consider obscura a good species on its own (Alström et al 2013 Taxonomic status of Blackthroat Calliope obscura and Firethroat C. pectardens. Forktail 29: 94-99). The change of genus, from Luscinia to Calliope, is a consequence of recent research which shows that the Turdini are not forming a monophyletic group, being obscura and pectardens inside the same branch that Luscinia calliope, now Calliope calliope (Sangster et al 2010 Multi-locus phylogenetic analysis of Old World chats and flycatchers reveals extensive paraphyly at family, subfamily and genus level (Aves: Muscicapidae). Mol Phyl Evol 57: 380-392; Zuccon & Ericson 2010 A multi-gene phylogeny disentangles the chat-flycatcher complex (Aves: Muscicapidae). Zool Scripta 39: 213-224).

The Blackthroat male found in 2011 in the Chengdu campus, Sichuan, China. Image obtained from Oriental Birds Images at  © Wu Jiawei/Oriental Bird Images

The Blackthroat male found in 2011 in the Chengdu campus, Sichuan, China. Image obtained from Oriental Birds Images at
© Wu Jiawei/Oriental Bird Images