Category Archives: 04) Seabirds

More Blue Fulmars with dark in the tail

Svalbard, July 2013

with grateful thanks to Alan McBride for these stunning photos. See his website.

“Hey Martin,

Enjoyed your post about the Atlantic Fulmar (and most others too)… Attached are three from Svalbard waters between 05 and 08 July last year, 2013…
Of the birds I photographed and where I can see the tail clearly I’d say there was less than 2% with dark anywhere on tail and in some, it seems to be partial. These three are best I could come up with ;-(
Hope they’re of interest / use…
Very best wishes
Alan”
Svalbard

Svalbard

SvalbardSvalbardSvalbardSvalbard

 

 

Alan McBride  ·  Photographer / Writer Lancashire England · Languedoc France · Sydney Australia  http://www.alanmcbride.com.au

Blue Fulmars with dark tail bands

Bob Flood and Martin Garner

.We have received several interesting responses to the posting on Atlantic Fulmars with dark subterminal tail-bands (technically subterminal because Atlantic Fulmars have narrow whitish tips to tail feathers).

Atlantic (2 to the left) and Pacific Fulmar (3 to the right) tails by Ian Lewington. From 'Frontiers in Birding'

Atlantic (2 to the left) and Pacific Fulmar (3 to the right) tails by Ian Lewington. From ‘Frontiers in Birding’

 

,

Brett Richards has recorded similar birds from Flamborough as follows: On 4 January 2009, seven Blue Fulmars were seen. One had a very dark, almost blackish fairly narrow subterminal tail-band, and this was the darkest part of the plumage. On 5 March 2012, eight Blue Fulmars were seen. One had dark/dusky tail corners. So, it seems these Arctic breeders with dark subterminal tail-bands make it to the UK. Beware headland watchers!

Atlantic Blue Fulmar with dark in tail, Spitsbergen June 2012, Darryl Spittle

Atlantic Blue Fulmar with dark in tail, Spitsbergen June 2012, Darryl Spittle

Darryl Spittle found a photo of an Atlantic Fulmar with a partial subterminal tail-band in his fulmar photos taken in Spitsbergen in June 2012.

Blue Fulmar showing dark in tail, Spitsbergen. Image copyright Hadoram Shirihai © Tubenoses Project

Blue Fulmar showing dark in tail, Spitsbergen. Image copyright Hadoram Shirihai © Tubenoses Project

,

We also heard from Hadoram Shirihai. In summers 2004–8 he made a census of plumage-types across much of the main breeding areas, concentrating on Iceland, Jan Mayen, Bear Island, Svalbard, and the Arctic northeast Canada. In this survey he also noticed that intermediate and dark morphs can have adark subterminal tail-band. He noted, as we did in our photographs and video, that the subterminal tail-band is variable; narrow, wide, or only on some feathers and may be asymmetrical. Although Hadoram does not have his notes with him, he seems to recall at least c 5 % of the birds in some locations exhibited this feature, but it was most frequently observed in Svalbard, with some as far south as Jan Mayen and Bear Is. He agrees that these birds are not Pacific Fulmars.

Blue Fulmar, Spitsbergen. This is about as pale Blue as it's possible to get and still identify!  Image copyright Hadoram Shirihai © Tubenoses Project

Blue Fulmar, Spitsbergen. This is about as pale Blue as it’s possible to get and still identify! Image copyright Hadoram Shirihai © Tubenoses Project

.

Blue and non Blue Fulmars off Scarborough. July 214 Justin Carr

Blue and non Blue Fulmars off Scarborough. July 214 Justin Carr

Possibilities currently under investigation by Bob and Hein van Grouw include: ancestral gene from Pacific Fulmar, gene recently passed on by Pacific Fulmar, aberration in the way pigment granules are distributed (inheritable or not inheritable). So, even the thought-to-be familiar Atlantic Fulmar is in fact full of mysteries and puzzles (of which there are more to come)!

Video of dark-tailed bird which sparked the latest explorations:

 

Blue Fulmars with dark tail bands in the North Atlantic

What’s going on?

Bob Flood

‘A key criteria for separation of Pacific Fulmar from Atlantic Fulmar is that in Pacific Fulmar the tail typically is much darker than the uppertail-coverts and contrasts strongly with them (i.e. visible tail either wholly dark or mainly dark forming a contrasting thick band); but not so in Atlantic Fulmar. This is a striking feature of Pacific Fulmar in all but dark morphs.

So, when I saw this intermediate-morph bird in Spitsbergen (North Atlantic) with an obvious dark tail band, I immediately thought it could be a Pacific Fulmar. It would be a first for the Western Palearctic! The video was taken during an Oceanwide expedition cruise in Spitsbergen and I hoped a photographer on board might have photographed the bird so I could check details. No such luck. However, I alerted one of the expedition team Christophe Gouraud (top guy) and, to cut a long story short, we now have good SLR photos of two other fulmars in Spitsbergen with dark tail bands.

It appears that there is a population of fulmars in western Spitsbergen (at least) with dark tail bands. How many is unknown. We have not heard of anything like this before and we find it an astonishing discovery, given that the area is well researched and well-travelled; but it begs the question, ‘What is going on?’

We will give a full expose in the forthcoming multimedia ID guide ‘Albatrosses & Fulmarine Petrels’ (Bob Flood & Ashley Fisher), and Hein van Grouw (Natural History Museum, Tring) and I will discuss the birds in a forthcoming article. We are still working through the possibilities with a few strong candidates on the table. One thing I am fairly confident of is that the birds are Atlantic and not Pacific Fulmars based on structure and other features of plumage aspect (though Pacific genes are not eliminated). So, the ID criteria for separating Pacific from Atlantic Fulmars perhaps will have to be rewritten?

Note that recent DNA research recommends elevation of the two forms to species level:

Kerr, K. C. R., & Dove, C. J. 2013. Delimiting shades of gray: phylogeography of the Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis. Ecology & Evolution 3: 1915–1930.’

 

Seawatching Joys

Flamborough in mid-July

It’s just a personal thing. I have very much been enjoying some recent mornings sitting and watching the passing seabirds off Flamborough. No big rarities, nor great spectacles. Just the joy of sitting (able to sit much longer as my health improves), often with my friend Brett Richards and watching. I enjoy the close and the far away. All kinds of learning and testing opportunities, and the beauty of staring out at wild seas and a big wide open space.

Outer head with east end of Flamborough head to the left end of the picture. Thanks for photo to Mick Sherwin

Outer head with east end of Flamborough head to the left end of the picture. Thanks for photo to Mick Sherwin

Here some shots of birds all taken from the seawatch spot over a couple of days. We did see a Pomarine Skua and some beautiful Arctic Terns, unfortunately a little too far to get a worthwhile photo. This is just the autumn warm-up act.

The Seawatch Spot:

Here's where we sit- the little arc below the front end of the Fog Station- part way down the cliff- can you see it? Hopefully some joy-filled moments yet to be had here in the coming days. Photo: Mick Sherwin

Here’s where we sit- the little arc below the front end of the Fog Station- part way down the cliff- can you see it? Hopefully some joy-filled moments yet to be had here in the coming days. Photo: Mick Sherwin

The captions explain a little more:

Inspired on the first seawatch of last week when this ad male Velvet Scoter landed in front of us. Photo by Brett Richards

Inspired on the first seawatch of last week when this ad male Velvet Scoter landed in front of us. Photo by Brett Richards

 

a  mix of seabirds to test skills

a mix of seabirds to test skills

Manx Shearwaters - sometimes up to several hundred can pass in a morning

Manx Shearwaters – sometimes up to several hundred can pass in a morning

 

good chance to improve skills on Guillemot and Razorbill flight ID. Can you ID the 3 on the right?

good chance to improve skills on Guillemot and Razorbill flight ID. Can you ID the 3 on the right?

some come nice and close

some come nice and close

and Puffins breed on the cliffs below

and Puffins breed on the cliffs below

Fulmars pass close with 2 Blue Fulmar in the last week

Fulmars pass close with 2 Blue Fulmar in the last week

Scoters are the commonest wildfowl right now, with occasional Eider like these 3 drakes

Scoters are the commonest wildfowl right now, with occasional Eider like these 3 drakes

gull variety can be excellent- 2nd summer?? Common Gull

gull variety can be excellent- 2nd summer?? Common Gull

and practice on in flight Cormorant ID. This one's a carbo- Atlantic Cormorant

and practice on in flight Cormorant ID. This one’s a carbo- Atlantic Cormorant

These are sinensis- Continental Cormorants- much championed locally by Brett R.

These are sinensis- Continental Cormorants- much championed locally by Brett R.

Plus the passing Shags

Plus the passing Shags

Skuas are just starting to appear- we had a fine 3cy Pomarine Skua. I think this plain winged Bonxie (Great Skua) might be a 1cy (first summer)

Skuas are just starting to appear- we had a fine 3cy Pomarine Skua. I think this plain winged Bonxie (Great Skua) might be a 1cy (first summer)

Waders are also increasingly present and passing like these Oystercatcher

Waders are also increasingly present and passing like these Oystercatcher

 

so a gull to end- what age and species is this one? :)

so a gull to end- what age and species is this one? :)

 

Puzzling Seabird Photos @#?!

August 9th 2013

Rich Baines was searching for images of seabirds and was checking through photos taken last August. I was on the boat with him, and we had superb views of this juvenile Yellow-legged Gull.

He came across these previously unnoticed blurry photos which are understandably disconcerting. There were several Manx Shearwaters in the area. It has been suggested this might be a pterodroma. I am not sure, I understand that line of thought but I see some features that raise questions.

Rich thought readers of BF would like to comment. ID suggestions very welcome.

_V8H9643 _V8H9644 _V8H9641 _V8H9642

Should be some more ‘context’ photos to follow.

 

Some Manx from the same day:

manx

Black-browed Albatross on Helgoland

Helgoland is experiencing a fantastic spring the last 3 weeks. The most recent addition to the Helgoland list is a Black-browed Albatros, giving spectacular views from a few meters distance.
  

Jochen D.

The run of rarities started on May 15th with a Western Subalpine Warbler (usually we get eastern subspecies here). On 20.5. Trumpeter Finch was added to the Helgoland list. Since there have been 4 Blyth’s Reed Warblers, several Greenish Warblers, a River Warbler, Lesser Grey Shrike, Booted Warbler and 2 more Subalpine Warblers (1 albistriata and a probable subalpina).

albatros_6770c

On May 28th a Black-browed Albatros was discovered by local birder Gotthard Krug flying close to the island. After several hours of searching it was refound and was seen close to the bird cliff. The rest of the day and also next day it was giving spectacular views flying close over the heads of the observers. In the evening of 29th the wind dropped and the albatros disappeared to the disappointment of many birders arriving next day.

albatros6704c

Yesterday the bird suddenly appeared again flying low over the village but was seen only once afterwards. Today it appeared around noon putting on an unforgettable show, flying with stretched feet low over the heads again – it seemed that not only the birders but also the albatros had a lot of fun!

And I even got it on my garden list yesterday (and so it today flying overhead again) …

albatros_6548c

Blue Fulmar Pelagic – April birding in Varanger

By Tormod Amundsen

Fulmar Blue type dark side view flight Vardø April 2014 crop sign Amundsen Biotope

At the Biotope office we have just bought a small boat, and yesterday was the first chance to take it to sea. A 13 foot boat is admittedly not a boat you would take out for a pelagic in the icy Barents Sea. The idea is to rebuild the boat into a floating photo hide. We have some very cool opportunities we would like to explore. However, yesterday we could see loads of Fulmars circling fishing vessels quite close to land just south of Vardø island. Of course I could not let this opportunity pass: I packed my camera gear and bins, put on layers and layers of clothes and headed out in the snowy and windy Barents Sea. Already less then 2 kilometers from land the curious Fulmars started circling my boat. In April in Varanger most Fulmars are of the arctic dark blueish type. Truly stunning birds!

Getting the photos was however not so easy. The smallish but still choppy waves made it difficult to photograph. A couple of hours of standing up in the boat, photographing while trying to keep my balance proved to be a major work out. But persistence pays off. The below photos show some of these beautiful Fulmars. It was also great to see the plumage variety. The darkest type birds are just amazing. While the paler birds with their stylish uniform plumage should perhaps be named Silver Fulmars?! Another great birding experience only minutes from the office. I figured these images is worth sharing here on Birding Frontiers. Yesterdays little pelagic reminded me of one of the first trips I led in Varanger, and it is where I first met Martin too. Check out Martins Blue Fulmar Pelagic story from the May 2011 Varanger trip, or read the full trip report which was the first post on the Biotope site.

Blue Fulmar pelagic in 13ft boat, south of Vardø island

Blue Fulmar pelagic in 13ft boat, south of Vardø island

´Blue Fulmar´ in snow

´Blue Fulmar´ in snow

Semi dark type Fulmar

Semi dark type Fulmar

Pale type Fulmar

Pale type Fulmar

Semi dark type Fulmar

Silver Fulmar!

semi dark Fulmar

Semi dark Fulmar

Darkest type Fulmar

Darkest type Fulmar

Fulmar in Norwegian is called ´havhest´, litterally meaning ´sea horse´. This is the dark horse.

Fulmar in Norwegian is called ´havhest´, literally meaning ´sea horse´. This is the dark horse. Stunning birds!

Best wishes from Arctic Norway

Tormod Amundsen / www.biotope.no