Category Archives: 17) Chats and Thrushes

Eastern Black Redstart, taxon: phoenicuroides

Names and Calls

Martin Garner

A quick follow up to the post on this beautiful bird:

Eastern Black Redstart Scarboro 1st Dec 2014 j

 

Calls

I have compared a few calls of ‘western’ gibraltariensis Black Redstarts with my recording of phoenicuroides Eastern Black Redstart at Scarborough, though ideally I need a better data set. Impressions in the field were that the Scarborough Eastern Black Redstart sounded similar but a bit different- kind of lower pitched or something and was discussed as such at the time. Subsequently spurred on  especially by Grahame Walbridge, there may be difference in pitch and possibly shape but I am not sure if variation in calls of both taxa render this obsolete or whether there really are useful differences. Need more time to look in to it!

If anyone has good quality recordings of Western and Eastern Black Redstarts, or thoughts on the subject- be great to hear from you.

Eastern Black Redstart Scarboro 1 dec 2014 sonagram

 

English Names 

1cy male Eastern Black Redstart. Stef McElwee, November 2011, Holy Island, Northumberland

1cy male ‘Eastern’ Black Redstart. Stef McElwee, November 2011, Holy Island, Northumberland

Another subject briefly raised was the suitable English name for phoenicuroides.

Eastern Black Redstart seems inappropriate and confusing as here are several taxa that fit this catch-all term. I was a bit hasty in writing as subsequently friends (particularly Paul French) reminded me that we’d had a light-hearted discussion a couple of years ago on a suitable name for Eastern Back Redstarts – following the two first winter males in 2011 (also see photo above). Here’s what we came up with:

Kashmir Redstart- as others have pointed out, and we concluded at the time- even though this is out there as a potential name, Kashmir is too far south of the core range.

More suitable options we toyed with were

Kyrgyzstan Redstart and Tajikistan Redstart

but most favoured was Tien Shan Redstart

Central Asian Black Redstart is one option but seems a bit ‘lowest common denominator’ and functional only. Furthermore a large area of Central Asia is NOT occupied by phoenicuroides.

Given the record in Kent in November 2011 whose identity was ratified by a sample of excrement collected at the site, I really liked ‘Kentish Crapstart’. But somehow I don’t think it will catch on…

An Exotic Robin in China

By Terry

When most birders think of exotic robins in China, it’s images of Blackthroat, Rufous-headed Robin or Siberian Rubythroat that come to mind.  However, at a 15th century World Heritage Site in the heart of Beijing, it’s a different species that has captured the imagination of local birders and photographers on an unprecedented scale.

On 10 November 2014 a local bird photographer posted onto a Chinese photography forum some photos he had taken in the Temple of Heaven Park.  It was a bird he had not seen before.  Sharp-eyed local birders Huang Hanchen and Li Xiaomai quickly spotted the images, posting them onto the Birding Beijing WeChat group, where they caused quite a stir.  It was a EUROPEAN ROBIN!  WOW!! (“BOOM” hasn’t yet caught on in Chinese birding circles).

The following day I was on site at dawn, together with 3 young Chinese birders.  The only directions we had were vague at best – “the northwest section“.  Temple of Heaven Park is a huge site and, after a 3-hour search, there was no sign of the exotic visitor.  My 3 companions decided to leave to look for a Brown-eared Bulbul (another Beijing rarity) that had been reported in Jingshan Park.  I decided to walk one more circuit around an area of shrubs that looked the most likely spot for a Robin.  Along the last line of shrubs I suddenly heard a call – one that I immediately recognised from home.  It was hard to believe, and I almost felt embarrassed, but my heart leapt!  Immediately afterwards, a blurred shape made a dart from a bush, across the path in front of me, deep into the base of another thick shrub.  It was a full 5 minutes before I was able to secure a clear view.  It was still here – a European Robin!!  I hurriedly sent out a message to the group and, just a few minutes later, the original 3 birders were back and we all enjoyed intermittent views of what was, at that time, a very elusive bird.

Little did we know what a fuss this bird would cause.  Over the next few days the local bird photographers flocked to the site and, on a single day that week, there were over 150 photographers present (see below).  It was a scene reminiscent of a “first for Britain” and, despite a similar but much smaller scale twitch two years ago for another robin – Japanese Robin – this was something I had not seen in China before….

Bird photographers at the Temple of Heaven Park a few days after the initial sighting.  Photo by China Youth Daily

Bird photographers at the Temple of Heaven Park a few days after the initial sighting. Photo by China Youth Daily

As is often the case in China (as well as large parts of Asia), some of the photographers immediately began putting out mealworms and created artificial perches for the bird to try to create the conditions for the most aesthetically pleasing photos possible.  It wasn’t long before the robin became habituated and performed spectacularly for the assembled masses.

And the interest in this bird has not dwindled.  As I write this, on 6 December, there are still many photographers on site, almost four weeks after the initial sighting.  Incredible.  It must be the most photographed EUROPEAN ROBIN ever.

6th December: still a good crowd of bird photographers almost 4 weeks after the Robin was first seen.

6th December: still a good crowd of bird photographers almost 4 weeks after the Robin was first seen.

During its stay, as well as bird photographers, this bird has attracted unprecedented attention from the Chinese media, with articles published in The China Daily (in English) and China Youth Daily (in Chinese), the latter reporting that this individual has come all the way from England!  There is no doubt that this vagrant – an ambassador for wild birds – has raised awareness among many people in Beijing about the importance of Beijing’s parks for wild birds and generated an appreciation for the birds that can be found in the capital.

A species that we take for granted in Europe, this bird’s presence is a reminder both that the European Robin is a stunningly beautiful bird and that watching rare birds is all relative.  In Europe birders dream of finding a SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT or visiting China to see the enigmatic BLACKTHROAT.  In Beijing, it’s a EUROPEAN ROBIN that gets the juices flowing….  and rightly so….!

The world's most photographed EUROPEAN ROBIN (Erithacus rubecula), Temple of Heaven Park, Beijing, 3 December 2014

The world’s most photographed EUROPEAN ROBIN (Erithacus rubecula), Temple of Heaven Park, Beijing, 3 December 2014

Status of EUROPEAN ROBIN in China.

The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) has recently been discovered as a regular winter visitor, in small numbers, to western Xinjiang, in the far northwest of China.  It is very rare further east, with just one previous record in Beijing, a bird that spent the winter in the grounds of Peking University in 2007-2008.  

 

Link

aka Kashmir Tien Shan Redstart… at Scarborough

Found on Saturday by resident and local Scarborough birder Steve Pinder in and around his garden. As most field guides don’t illustrate such new and emerging species as the Eastern Black Redstart (seen what I sneaked in there) he thought it must be a male Common Redstart. Thankfully Long Nab devotee, Nick Addey thought he’d better take a look. BOOM! Britain’s 5th ever Eastern Black Redstart taxon: phoenicuroides.

P.S. Excellent craic with Flambro and Filey birders- Rich and Gaynor, Phil C. and Mark (WBD) Pearson…

Eastern Black Redstart Scarboro 1st Dec 2014 j

It’s a 1cy male with mostly adult type greater coverts on the left wing but more obvious mix of juvenile and adult type greater coverts on the right wing. A bit of video (it looks very smart!)

The wing formula looks good for phoenicuroides but here it is for the further close study with primary tips and some emarginations action :). Eastern Black Redstart Scarboro 1st Dec 2014 f

 

and I was very grateful to capture some calls as it had bouts of being quite vocal. Want to look at this versus other redstart calls when get chance. Of jump in if you are interested and have comment to make on these calls.

Eastern Black Redstart Scarboro 1 dec 2014 sonagram

 

Eastern Black Redstart Scarboro 1st Dec 2014 h

Eastern Black Redstart Scarboro 1st Dec 2014 e

Stejneger’s Stonechat

Not so tricky?

Martin Garner

Following confirmed occurrence in NW Europe (Britain, Netherlands and Finland) in the last 2 years the early murmurings were about how these were not really identifiable in the field.

As my Canadian past self might articulate “Is that right?”

I am gaining confidence that they really are identifiable. Illustrating their distinctiveness from  Siberian Stonechat ‘maurus’, a greater challenge can be separating some Stejneger’s from the European Stonechat hibernates/rubicola. Lots more in this book of course :)

Have a look at these 3 shots which encapsulate key features of this 1st winter female on Fair Isle this autumn- with thanks to Fair Isle warden, David Parnaby. More on that bird HERE.

Stejneger's Stonechat 3 Stejneger's Stonechat2 Stejneger's Stonechat 1

 

As a reminder here’s the 1st winter male in October 2012 in Britain and Netherlands (DNA confirmed). More on that bird HERE.

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Here’s a 1st winter male from Orivesi, Pappilanniemi, Finland on 7th November 2013 (DNA confirmed). This last one features in a must-read paper in British Birds by Magnus Hellström and Gabriel Norevik. More HERE.

Beautiful and fuller set of photos by Jani Vastamäki are HERE.

sax_ms_vastamaki_01

 

Siberian Chiffchaff heads

Ottenby Bird Observatory, Sweden

Magnus Hellström

Here’s a photo with a slight nerd warning, primarily for those of you deeply into this subject…

During the autumn we caught 12 Chiffchaffs at Ottenby Bird Observatory, which we have recorded as Siberian Chiffchaffs ‘tristis’. Several were very typical but also some best described as ‘fulvescens’ (western tristis)- showing slight presence of yellow, and perhaps a trifle more olive above. The image is a rather amusing compilation, and gives a quick impression of the variation.

Click on to see closer/ larger size.


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Stejneger’s Stonechat on Fair Isle

At least it looks that way

all photos by David Parnaby

Sibe Stenchat

31st October – 2nd November 2014… so far

David Parnaby, warden of Fair Isle Bird Observatory writes:

This Stonechat has been with us three days now, but has been incredibly elusive and jumpy. Finally got some photos this morning (2nd Nov) that appear to confirm our field suspicions of:

  • Unmarked, orange rump
  • Pale throat
  • Relatively prominent supercilium (esp when viewed from the front)
  • Unmarked flanks
  • Pale wing panel (pale edges to secondaries/tertials)

The tentative conclusion is that it looks like Stejneger’s Stonechat is the best fit.

They are surely right on the money. It’s a first winter and with non black underwing- a female. Perhaps therefore the first female Stejneger’s to be identified in the Western Palearctic (albeit with all that tentative stuff). I checked with Nils van Duivendijk and Andy Stoddart who also thought it basically looked the biz. The primary projection (I think) looks too long for European birds, the supercilium bit thicker than some Stejneger’s but probably OK. However check out  those lovely plain flanks and the colour of that plain rump!

Perhaps it travelled on the same flight over as the Eastern Crowned Warbler?

Lots more on identifying Stejneger’s Stonechat in the Challenge Series: AUTUMN which according to David Parnaby helped with the ID process of this bird.

Hooray! that’s what the book was all about :)

Sibe Stenchat4Sibe Stenchat5Sibe Stenchat(flight)Sibe Stenchat7 Sibe Stenchat3 Sibe Stenchat6

 

 

Eastern Black Redstart

Andrea Corso has been in touch. Though he’s not on this special island,  but Ottavio Janni is. A couple of days ago was Ottavio’s first day on the island. Result: 1 Little Bunting, 4 Yellow-browed warblers and THIS Redstart.

Nice one Ottavio (all his photos). Looks a very good candidate for the eastern phoenicuroides. The buff fringes to wing coverts and the emergent black bib make it a first winter male.

I was a bit wary about the whiter looking fringes to secondaries but a scroll through photos and chat with Andrea seem to make it ok.

Remember this guy? These are stunning birds. Maybe more in NW Europe this autumn?

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