Category Archives: d) Accipiters and Falcons

Arctic Peregrines in Eastern Europe

Latvia and the (Western) Edge of the Range

peregrein calidus 5 (1 of 1)

Gaidis Grandans

Hello, Martin!

I want to know your ID thoughts about a 1cy Peregrine Falcon, photographed on 3rd October at Latvia. According to “Winter Book” it looks good for ‘Arctic Peregrine’  ssp. calidus = new subspecies for Latvia. Thanks!

Gaidis  Grandans 

Gaidis is writing from from Latvia. He’s the manager of – rare and interesting bird observation in Latvia. 

A reply from MG:

Well this is lovely looking Peregrine. As you say, a bird in its first year. A 1cy.

It is not as distinct as some calidus but well within the ‘wake up and look at this’ range! It shows exactly the kind of features we want to be here if looking for vagrants. Right now.

The rather browner uppers, lots of pale about the head, specifically large pale cheek, rather thin dark ‘moustache’. A pale ‘nick’ under the eye trying to cut the dark moustache off. Rather large pale supercilium- bit broken up. Then check out that underpart streaking- YES! fading to thinner in the middle. What about the vent/undertail. Barring weak and reduced. All in all rather delicious!

How to record such birds?

I have seen similar plumage in similar latitude further north. The range to the north of this bird will appear in books as the edge/ overlap zone of nominate and calidus. I suspect more calidus pass through Latvia given the geography. Some of these will be travelling MONSTER distances.  All such birds should be well documented as calidus and calidus-like records as part of the local avifauna. 

Probably overlooked,  I wonder what the real status of migrants/ vagrants passing through Latvia is?

Cheers Martin

I have lightened this first shot to show the underparts which were in shadow.

peregrein calidus 2 (1 of 1)


and then it lands

peregrein calidus 3 (1 of 1) peregrein calidus 4 (1 of 1) peregrein calidus 5 (1 of 1)

.peregrein calidus 1 (1 of 1)


Peregrine eating Kestrel

This is a smart piece of video taken in very strong winds in September at Spurn. The videographer is Dave Tucker- and this was shot with Swarovski ATX using Canon 7D attached to a Swarovski TLS APO adaptor and mounted onto the telescope. Balance Rail also used.

Peregrines take a wide variety of birds as their main food source. Kestrel however was not high on my list of species I thought they took! Great capture Dave.


It’s also a way of announcing the Premier of the Spurn Migration Festival video on the 25th October- more info coming soon!




Invasion of Red-footed Falcons in Bonkers Numbers

In Poland- and some questions…

See the video- only 15 seconds long but the numbers are incredible!

Lukasz Lawicki


immediate update: 9th September 2014.

New amazing news: in Poland, more than 1,500 birds (!), and further
about 500 in other Baltic countries (Latvia, Sweden, Estonia, Finland,
Germany, Denmark). Amazing! I wonder how many of them will reach to the western Europe. See on the photos from Poland HERE.


I am very curious if in countries in western and northern Europe in the
last week reported influx of Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus?

In Poland during the last week has been a very large invasion of this
species – at least 650 birds (now over 1500) were recorded, including 330 (!) birds at
one roost site near Lublin (SE Poland). See:

Of course, it is the largest ever invasion of Red-footed Falcons in
Poland (and still going!).

Perhaps it has to do with weather conditions – probably it is a result
of the high-pressure area, which in recent days pushed to Poland the
warm air from the SE Europe.

Probably most of these birds come from breeding grounds in south-eastern
part of continent (eg, from Ukraine or from a large population in
Hungary), but it is worth noting that one juvenile bird with Italian
ring (blue plastic) was photographed in NW Poland.

I would be grateful for information on whether in your country is also
now more Red-footed Falcons?



West-Pomeranian Nature Society, Poland.


Gyr Falcon in Lincolnshire?

Graham Catley

Grey morph Gyr Falcons can be very tricky bird to identify away from their core range. The spectre of a challenging ID and the possibility of falconer’s hybrids is ever present. This juvenile bird seen the last 2 days in N. Lincolnshire looks spectacular! Is it even the same seen at Patrington Haven in Nov, 2013? Graham Catley is keen to hear from those with a working knowledge of the subject. To be cont’d..!


See full set of Grahams photo of the bird:    >>>>Pewit Blogspot<<<<

“Morning Martin

A few quick words!
As I was passing Read’s Island on Sunday evening (9th March) I stopped off to do a quick Avo count but all the birds in the area were airborne; a quick scan revealed the two Marsh Harriers high up amongst the mass of gulls but none seemingly affected by each others presence; after a while I dropped my gaze and on the front edge of the island was what appeared to be a buteo sized pale falcon sitting head on to me! a panic for the scope revealed two distinctly blue – grey looking legs that showed no obvious signs of entrapment, some heavy underpart streaking and a notably pale head; fell for the modern disease and reached for the camera in which time it flew off closely chased by Lesser Black backs but it returned and landed on the back of the island again head on. It looked interesting but my one fuzzy flight shot suggested its upperparts were brown toned with a contrast between forewings and flight feathers and the paler head and nape. it remained distant to 17:45 when the light was going and it flew over the back of the island and out of sight.
Monday morning (10th March) I was back and initially passed over its upperparts protruding above a bank as a juv gull! Views were much better than the previous day and a series of pictures take albeit still at long range with a 500 lens and 2x converter; the upperpart colour seemed to vary but was typically a grey -brown; the legs were seen again with a scope and in photos nothing appears on them; it was mobbed by Marsh Harriers and LBB and GBB Gulls and always seemed to spook the Shelduck which it seemed to have a close eye on — I left at 11:15 but apparently it flew south early afternoon and was not seen between 15:15 and 17:15 — still not sure of the ID myself; I sent a link to Dick F. and wonder if he may actually be in Israel as its March

Graham Catley BSc Env

Ornithological Consultant and Professional Photographer

Director, Nyctea Ltd



Cryptic Forest Falcon

Once thought extirpated.

Extirpation refers to local (rather than global) extinction. A 40 year gap existed since the Cryptic Forest Falcon had last been seen along the Atlantic forest of Brazil. Then some good news. Ornithomedia regularly posts on the Birding Frontiers Facebook page. Here’s their report:


The Mata Atlântica or Atlantic Forest stretches along Brazil’s coast to Uruguay, reaching inland northeastern Argentina and eastern Paraguay. Formerly covering nearly 1.5 million km ², its area is more than 100,000 km ² today, only 2% remained intact!

Although still very rich, the biodiversity has suffered from such destruction, and many plant and animal species are on the brink of extinction. The good news is so rare and welcome. In the December issue 2013 Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia, we learn that José Eduardo Simon and Gustavo Rodrigues Magnago observed and recorded July 29, 2012  a Carnifex Minton ( Micrastur mintoni ) in the Reserva Natural Vale, in the Brazilian state Espírito Santo. The last observation that some raptor in the Atlantic Forest dated 1972, and some ornithologists even thought he had disappeared from this ecosystem.

Read the full story >>> HERE <<<

Steppe Merlin

Overlooked in Europe? No way, so distinctive!

Yoav Perlman

Merlin has a huge breeding range accross Europe and Asia. It has several subspecies – as in many other species the W European populations being darker, and the E populations being paler and larger. pallidus (‘Steppe Merlin’) is the largest and palest of those occuring in the WP. It breeds in the steppes of N Kazakhstan and SW Siberia, and winters mainly in the Indian Subcontinent. It is a rare winter visitor to the Middle East, and therefore it should be looked for in Europe as well. In Israel it is rare indeed, with one or two wintering in some winters.

Last week I was doing a wintering raptor census in the NW Negev, in the open fields of Urim. This area is very rich in winter, with a strong C Asian steppes influence – Saker, callidus Peregrine, Sociable Lapwing, Eastern Imperial Eagle and Pallid Harrier are regular winter visitors, and this area hosts important populations of these species. As I was working a small patch of Tamarix trees that often are used as day roosts for Merlins, I noticed a brilliant male pallidus Merlin shooting out of a tree. I had quick flight views at first, but this form is so distinctive – especially in direct sunlight the upperparts are as pale as a Pallid Harrier so ID wasn’t challenging… It landed in a farther tree, and I managed to drive up to it and get a couple of crap shots in the shade before it flew out again.

pallidus Merlin, NW Negev, israel, january 2014

pallidus Merlin, NW Negev, Israel, January 2014

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to focus on the bird in flight and got nothing of it in proper light conditions. So I checked google and found these fantastic shots by Indian friends Rajesh Shah and Nirav Bhatt – I use their images here with their kind permission:

pallidus Merlin, Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India, November 2010

pallidus Merlin, Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India, November 2010


The size and structure differences from European aesalon might be difficult to judge in the field, especially in males that are anyway smaller than females. However, the pallid grey upperparts, pale head, faintly marked moustache and eyestripe, and faintly streaked upperparts make identification rather easy if seen in good light conditions. I guess that females and juveniles are much more challenging to identify – should be duller, paler and less streaked, but very hard to find convincing images.

Some more friends from the NW Negev:

Eastern Imperial Eagle, 3cy, NW Negev, January 2014

Eastern Imperial Eagle, 3cy, NW Negev, January 2014



Saker, 1cy, NW Negev, Israel, December 2013

Saker, 1y, NW Negev, Israel, December 2013