Category Archives: 05) Herons, Storks, Flamingoes

Chinese Pond Heron in breeding plumage

in October

Dave Gandy

… has written in following his excellent contributions to the discussion on the Chinese Pond Heron in Kent earlier this year. On his local patch at Bangkok earlier this month he came across a Chinese Pond Heron. Interesting thing is that it’s in (almost) full breeding plumage and it’s in October. His bird immediately brought to Dave’s mind an adult breeding Chinese Pond Heron seen in Britain in October and November 2004.

The bird was not accepted as being wild, a chief component being its ‘out-of-season’ plumage. While we are not saying that the 2004 bird was wild, it is intriguing that such ‘summery’ Chinese Pond Heron’s can indeed occur, in the wild, in October.

You can read the comment in the BBRC report HERE

The comments from the 34th report of the BOURC on the record are:

“Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus

Adult in full breeding plumage, Norfolk, 31 October 2004. Identification was accepted, but the bird was considered to have been of captive origin and the species was assigned to Category E. This individual was also reported from East Dean, Hampshire, 13 November 2004.”

Chinese Pond Heron, Bangkok, Thailand, 18th October 2014. Dave Gandy

Chinese Pond Heron, Bangkok, Thailand, 18th October 2014. Dave Gandy

Chinese Pond Heron in breeding plumage, Bangkok, Thailand 15th October 2014. Dave Gandy

Chinese Pond Heron in breeding plumage, Bangkok, Thailand 15th October 2014. Dave Gandy

 

.

 

Chinese Pond Heron in Kent now has DNA confirmation

Its Mum was Chinese

Following the finding of a part of the corpse of the Pond Heron in Kent from earlier this year- testing the mitochondrial DNA has confirmed that the bird’s mother was a Chinese Pond Heron. As Martin Collinson commented on twitter: “Only mtDNA – COI gene of Hythe heron was 100% identical to Chinese Pond Heron, i.e. it’s mum was Chinese Pond Heron. Dad not done yet”

On this  Birdforum post Ian Roberts who was at the forefront on reporting the bird’s presence also posted the photos of the remains. The feathers should be useful to compare with developing ageing criteria as well (see below).

Isotope analyse has been planned but is an uncertain field for getting clear result if you cannot find parts grown in different places which demonstrate the bird has moved from one place (i.e. east Asia) to another (west Europe).

 

remains of Chinese Pond Heron, Kent March 2014. Ian Roberts

remains of Chinese Pond Heron, Kent March 2014. Ian Roberts

 

It was an identification challenge we followed closely on here, contributing some thoughts, pretty convinced from early on that it showed Chinese Pond Heron characters. Here was the last post with what we were learning:

ID and likely aging

Martin Garner

It’s a Chinese Pond Heron and I think it’s a first winter. Here’s a little feature to add to the identification and the pros and cons of aging. It’s not an adult, and we are still learning…There is also a courtesy request at the end.

Chinese  Pond Heron, Hythe, Kent, by Paul Rowe- whose images helped clarify some things.

Chinese Pond Heron, Hythe, Kent, by Paul Rowe- whose images helped clarify some things.

l

Chinese Pond Heron, Bankok by Dave Gandy. Compare face and head pattern with Kent bird above

Chinese Pond Heron, Bankok by Dave Gandy. Compare face and head pattern with Kent bird above

On Identification – ‘new feature’

 

Maybe this will help. ‘New feature’ over-eggs it- but seems to have merit in the ID process. The Kent pond heron unsurprisingly at this time of year is moulting into a more definitive summer plumage. The fascinating journey with this bird is that there was time when attempting non breeding pond herons was a hiding to nothing. Studying, questioning, exploring a bird like this can teach a great deal. One feature that final dispels any lingering uncertainty in me is an aspect of the head pattern which is emerging on the Kent bird – more obviously on the right than left side. It’s clearly present- normal for Chinese Pond Heron (try searching through images of summer plumage Chinese Pond Herons and the other species- it soon becomes very obvious). You can just about squeeze some pattern of streaking occasionally present in the same area on another pond heron sp. which kinda mirrors it. However the ‘new breeding colours’ will also be emerging and are not maroon!

 

 

Paul Rowe 2

above 2 images of Chinese Pond Heron in Kent by Paul Rowe

above 2 images of Chinese Pond Heron in Kent by Paul Rowe

On aging. What can be said?

 

The Kent bird is not an adult.

You will see from previous posts we have wrestled and journey with the birds’ ID and aging. Having had longer look with fantastic input from Ian Lewington, Kester Wilson, Paul Leader, Grahame Walbridge and Paul Holt, it’s  a little more clear.

Adults have mostly/ all white wing tips and broad rounded tips to the primary feathers at this time of year. “Adults lack the dark primary shafts which are really obvious in my juveniles – and the Kent bird. The Kent is certainly not an adult (if that has been suggested). ” (Paul Leader)

 

A first winter?

The shape of the primary tips arguably favours a 1st winter bird. The heavily pigmented dark outer primaries and primary tips appears to be rather tapered and worn, the shape looks typical of 2cy, compared to the broader more rounded tips of an adult. Notice how just as in Paul Leaders photos of ‘wings in the hand’ from Mai Po, Hong Kong, the inner primaries are less tapered in shape than the outer one and less damaged at tip compared with outer ones. “Looking at the flight shots of the Kent bird the primary tips do appear to be a better match for 2cy.” (Paul Holt)

adult Chinese Pond Heron, Bankok, Dave Gandy. All white wings

adult Chinese Pond Heron, Bankok, Dave Gandy. All white wings

Adult Squacco Heron  Eilat 31 March 2012 showing colour and shape of primaires

Adult Squacco Heron Eilat 31 March 2012 showing colour and shape of primaires

first winter Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

first winter Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

 

adult Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

adult Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

 

 

adult above and first winter below Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

adult above and first winter below Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

 The Unresolved Question

Brown pattering in upperwing 

 

Brown pattering in upperwing  of the Kent is considered to be too much for any adults, but is it too little for a first winter bird?

 

Both Paul Leader and Paul Holt, expressed the view they thought the brown streaking to some degree in the uppering coverts, especially lesser coverts should be more obvious in the Kent bird, were it a first winter (2cy). Compare Paul Leader’s in hand wing shots with open wing/flight shots of the Kent bird to see what is meant. For me (MG) personally, and I  may well be proven wrong- the wing tip shape is good for  first winter, and the pigment may be at the light end- it’s not far off Paul Leaders photos taken 5 months earlier… Maybe further research will establish that the 2cy bird in Fe/March can look like this. Another valid view being explored I that it is a 2nd winter (3cy) bird. More research needed!

 

Brown fringing to tail feathers

 

Some 1st winters have brown fringing to tail feathers. The tail on the Kent bird appears to be all white. Whether all 1st winters have brown tail tips, or not or fading occurs needs more research.

 

Mai po, hk  Oct 1cy bacchus Paul LEADER

2 examples of 1st winter Chinese Pond Herons, Mai Po, HK. Oct. 2004 by Paul Leader

2 examples of 1st winter Chinese Pond Herons, Mai Po, HK. Oct. 2004 by Paul Leader

CPH14aCPH18awing labelled

Paul Rowe 3

and above all- enjoy the bird !

And in honouring the dudes- thanks to these guys who have added so much on this: Oscar Campbell, Paul Rowe, Phil Palmer, Ian Lewington, Grahame Walbridge, Paul Holt, Paul Leader, Kester Wilson, Dave Gandy, Paul Apps, Dave Allen, James Lowen, Ian Roberts, Brett Richards, David Walker, David Carr, Thomas Sacher, Martin Goodey.

 

 

Chinese Pond Heron- new feature

and likely aging

Martin Garner

It’s a Chinese Pond Heron and I think its a first winter. Here’s a little feature to add to the identification and the pros and cons of aging. It’s not an adult, and we are still learning…There is also a courtesy request at the end.

Chinese  Pond Heron, Hythe, Kent, by Paul Rowe- whose images helped clarify some things.

Chinese Pond Heron, Hythe, Kent, by Paul Rowe- whose images helped clarify some things.

l

Chinese Pond Heron, Bankok by Dave Gandy. Compare face and head pattern with Kent bird above

Chinese Pond Heron, Bankok by Dave Gandy. Compare face and head pattern with Kent bird above

On Identification – ‘new feature’

 

Maybe this will help. ‘New feature’ over-eggs it- but seems to have merit in the ID process. The Kent pond heron unsurprisingly at this time of year is moulting into a more definitive summer plumage. The fascinating journey with this bird is that there was time when attempting non breeding pond herons was a hiding to nothing. Studying, questioning, exploring a bird like this can teach a great deal. One feature that final dispels any lingering uncertainty in me is an aspect of the head pattern which is emerging on the Kent bird – more obviously on the right than left side. It’s clearly present- normal for Chinese Pond Heron (try searching through images of summer plumage Chinese Pond Herons and the other species- it soon becomes very obvious). You can just about squeeze some pattern of streaking occasionally present in the same area on another pond heron sp. which kinda mirrors it. However the ‘new breeding colours’ will also be emerging and are not maroon!

 

 

Paul Rowe 2

above 2 images of Chinese Pond Heron in Kent by Paul Rowe

above 2 images of Chinese Pond Heron in Kent by Paul Rowe

On aging. What can be said?

 

The Kent bird is not an adult.

You will see from previous posts we have wrestled and journey with the birds’ ID and aging. Having had longer look with fantastic input from Ian Lewington, Kester Wilson, Paul Leader, Grahame Walbridge and Paul Holt, it’s  a little more clear.

Adults have mostly/ all white wing tips and broad rounded tips to the primary feathers at this time of year. “Adults lack the dark primary shafts which are really obvious in my juveniles – and the Kent bird. The Kent is certainly not an adult (if that has been suggested). ” (Paul Leader)

 

A first winter?

The shape of the primary tips arguably favours a 1st winter bird. The heavily pigmented dark outer primaries and primary tips appears to be rather tapered and worn, the shape looks typical of 2cy, compared to the broader more rounded tips of an adult. Notice how just as in Paul Leaders photos of ‘wings in the hand’ from Mai Po, Hong Kong, the inner primaries are less tapered in shape than the outer one and less damaged at tip compared with outer ones. “Looking at the flight shots of the Kent bird the primary tips do appear to be a better match for 2cy.” (Paul Holt)

adult Chinese Pond Heron, Bankok, Dave Gandy. All white wings

adult Chinese Pond Heron, Bankok, Dave Gandy. All white wings

Adult Squacco Heron  Eilat 31 March 2012 showing colour and shape of primaires

Adult Squacco Heron Eilat 31 March 2012 showing colour and shape of primaires

first winter Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

first winter Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

 

adult Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

adult Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

 

 

adult above and first winter below Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

adult above and first winter below Chinese Pond Heron. Ian Lewington

 The Unresolved Question

Brown pattering in upperwing 

 

Brown pattering in upperwing  of the Kent is considered to be too much for any adults, but is it too little for a first winter bird?

 

Both Paul Leader and Paul Holt, expressed the view they thought the brown streaking to some degree in the uppering coverts, especially lesser coverts should be more obvious in the Kent bird, were it a first winter (2cy). Compare Paul Leader’s in hand wing shots with open wing/flight shots of the Kent bird to see what is meant. For me (MG) personally, and I  may well be proven wrong- the wing tip shape is good for  first winter, and the pigment may be at the light end- it’s not far off Paul Leaders photos taken 5 months earlier… Maybe further research will establish that the 2cy bird in Fe/March can look like this. Another valid view being explored I that it is a 2nd winter (3cy) bird. More research needed!

 

Brown fringing to tail feathers

 

Some 1st winters have brown fringing to tail feathers. The tail on the Kent bird appears to be all white. Whether all 1st winters have brown tail tips, or not or fading occurs needs more research.

 

Mai po, hk  Oct 1cy bacchus Paul LEADER

2 examples of 1st winter Chinese Pond Herons, Mai Po, HK. Oct. 2004 by Paul Leader

2 examples of 1st winter Chinese Pond Herons, Mai Po, HK. Oct. 2004 by Paul Leader

CPH14aCPH18awing labelled

Paul Rowe 3

and above all- enjoy the bird !

And in honouring the dudes- thanks to these guys who have added so much on this: Oscar Campbell, Paul Rowe, Phil Palmer, Ian Lewington, Grahame Walbridge, Paul Holt, Paul Leader, Kester Wilson, Dave Gandy, Paul Apps, Dave Allen, James Lowen, Ian Roberts, Brett Richards, David Walker, David Carr, Thomas Sacher, Martin Goodey.

One courtesy please.

 

Can I just ask for one courtesy? Some great folk, friends and colleagues contribute to Birding Frontiers (and whatever is written is free to view of course). So I do get disappointed when some kind of pot shot is made about someone as a result of a contribution made in all good faith. If you see something on here that bothers you, raises a question etc- I am very accessible- email, twitter, facebook, phone- just ask. Unfortunately, usually the truth is much less interesting than a bit of gossip J Thanks!

 

It’s a Chinese Pond Heron!

Isn’t it? Plus we’re closer to the age assessment 

Martin Garner

 

David Carr kindly got in touch with some really lovely pictures of the Chinese Pond Heron in Kent taken 5.3.14.   Can anybody really doubt that it’s a Chinese Pond Heron? The colours are self-evident.  Perhaps the ‘probable’ will go :)  As ever take a look at the pictures of the bird, the emerging plumage in the head pattern and underparts and if there is an alternative identification let us know.  As to aging this is harder both for the difficulty of getting super accurate photos and  gaps in our knowledge.  However the shape of the primaries tips and a degree of dark in the wings point to a second calender year (1st winter) or possibly 3rd calender year (2nd winter)- I think ( and with in some excellent discuss with others). One might argue that the slower moult to adult breeding plumage would be consistent with a younger bird rather than a more mature adult.  Dunno.

A spirit of common learning and discovery is going on – certainly I’m enjoying it.

There’s another post in my head on the aging with photos which we’ll do in due course.  Once again thanks to David Carr.    I hope that folk are enjoying the journey of discovery even when it seems a little torturous.
233200190

 

Chinese Pond Heron. Hythe, Kent, 5th March 2014. All photos David Carr.

Aging and Chinese Pond Heron

The Elusive Question

Phil Palmer … … got treated to a lucky private moment with the – huge caveat about the ID for cautious minded :) – Chinese Pond Heron in Kent yesterday. Most intriguing are his in-flight shots. Cheers Phil!

For those engaging/ wrestling with the birds’ ID. The thick orange based bill, loral marks, underparts patterns and feather colouring (previous posts) and marooney bits, don’t leave you many other places to go than

Chinese Pond Heron.

Kent Pond Heron, Palmer seve Kent Pond Heron, Palmer five

Still it teases us my precious!

In terms of aging. Dark marks in small wing coverts may or may not help us with aging. They are small feathers and limited details and likely to be affected by wear. Phil has captured some of the best shots of the bird in flight.

Until we know the variation in adults and 2cy birds (and there is some of both from museum studies and effects of wear etc.  this could be a typical or darker marked adult, or typical or paler marked 2cy bird. Have a look: Dark marks are evident in the primary coverts, alula region and even maybe? onto the marginal coverts of the upper secondaries. What does it all mean? More questions, but these are the birds we learn from. (Ian Lewington and Martin Garner)Kent Pond Heron, Palmer fourKent Pond Heron, Palmer oneKent Pond Heron, Palmer threeKent Pond Heron, Palmer two.

adult (above)  and 1st winter (below) Chinese Pond Heron. Shows amonyt of white and dark in wing tips and coverts. Likely to be variation in both ages.

adult (above) and 1st winter (below) Chinese Pond Heron. Showing amonunt of white and dark in wing tips and coverts. Likely to be variation in both ages. These are just 2 examples, one of each age.

Kent Pond Heron, Palmer six Kent Pond Heron, Palmer eightChinese Pond Heron, all photos above by Phil Palmer, 2nd March 2014, Kent, UK

Summer Pond Heron Plumages

and interesting wing tips

by Martin G

The Chinese Pond Heron in Kent continues to elude birders and yet fascinate on both aspects of identification and vagrancy. What plumage is it moulting into? Have we found a new little feature of winter identification of ardeola herons?
 

Which plumage is the Kent Bird moulting into?

The broad brush strokes usually go like this: There are several species of Pond Herons ‘ardeola’. In winter plumage they look very similar/ are impossible to identify. In summer plumage they turn into ornately coloured pond fairies  :) . The Kent bird is moulting into one of them.

CLICK on photo sets above for better views. Thanks to Dave Gandy for help. More on his blog too. >>>Visit Now<<<

Indian Pond Heron in April (left) and Chinese Pond Heron in March (right)

Indian Pond Heron in April (left) and Chinese Pond Heron in March (right)

Squacco Heron in March (left) and Javan Pond Heron of subspecies continentalis in April (right)

Squacco Heron in March (left) and Javan Pond Heron of (ssp. continentalis) in April (right)

Escape of Vagrant?

OK. Which plumage/species is the Kent bird moulting into? There are other species of Pond Heron but these are the main candidates. Based on origins, known movements and presence in European zoos the (very broad) view is roughly:

Javan Pond Heron. speciosa Not expected as natural vagrant. More common in zoos

Chinese Pond Heron. bacchus Longer distance migrant (though Britain is a LONG way). Rare/ not present in zoos. The hoped for card.

Indian Pond Heron. grayii Less likely as vagrant to Britain naturally reaching south-eastern parts of Western Palearctic region. i.e. East Mediterranean and Middle East. Handful in Zoos?

 

Primary tips

Thanks to our local chap a few more pics of the bird from the weekend. Helpful shots of  the wing tips appear here. Notice how much dark is present in the primaries. Depending to some degree on angle of light, the outer 2 primaries are rather extensively  dark, along the outer web right up to the primary coverts. The is quite a lot of dark pigment on all the primary tips. In conversation with Ian Lewington and as continuation of conversation of several years! See some of our  >>> OLD STUFF <<< We think (still looking into) that this is too much dark on the wing tips in winter for ANY plumage of Squacco Heron. Hypothesis: This much dark in primary tips in winter = Asian taxa of  Pond Heron? Discovering.

Dark shaft streaks in primary coverts and primary shafts are at least interesting though have not seen good enough photos of the lesser coverts – yet. To be cont’d…

22 feb oneCPH17 bn

Kent Chinese Pond Heron (looks like that way me!) above 2 photos late February 2014

Squacco Herons below in Israel March 2012. Compare wing tips.

Squacco Heron, Eilat, Israel March 2012. Martin Garner.

Squacco Heron, Eilat, Israel March 2012. Martin Garner.

Squacco Heron, Eilat, Israel March 2012. Martin Garner. (different to trapped bird above)
Squacco Heron, Eilat, Israel March 2012. Martin Garner. (different to trapped bird above):

Postscript

 

Photo added showing dark at wing tips of Kent bird, tad different angle. See discussion below:

CPH14 b

 

New Photos: Chinese Pond Heron

in Kent from today

Good news is always welcome. Spoke to lovely chap this morning. He rang because a strange heron had appeared in his garden- pinching the Koi! Initially thinking from books it might be a Squacco Heron,  A few low-key inquiries brought him to the Birding Frontiers blog. He soon realised this looked like the same individual. It is! Same bird, same area. Chinese Pond Heron. Private gardens.

Kent 19 Feb 2014 h balanced

More on the Identification issues >>>HERE<<< 

Kent 19 Feb 2014 g

Even with the struggle of back-lighting they are a great set of photos.  For ID purposes check out that thick- along- its-length orange based bill; dark loral mark; thick mauve feathering on breast sides with much less streaking in centre of breast. I think the aging is less clear with these new images. Thanks to input from Phil Round, Ian Lewington, Dave Gandy, Grahame Walbridge. Lesser wing coverts can be very helpful having brown centres in 2cy birds and tail tip may be darker on some (more to be learnt here for sure!). A fascinating bird yet- I hope you think so.

Kent-19-Feb-2014-f mmmmm

Thanks to the very nice gentleman who rang this morning and took this photos. Please understand there will be no more information than written here. It is in the same area and patience will pay off. They are private gardens. Thanks for understanding.

Kent-19-Feb-2014-c MMMM

There is one tip: I would look out for flocks of Black-headed Gulls- they mob ‘ickle Pond Herons…

Kent 19 Feb 2014 a

Kent 19 Feb 2014 bKent 19 Feb 2014 d

Chinese Pond Heron. A private garden in Kent. 19th February 2014