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First for China: STREAK-THROATED SWALLOW in Beijing!

By Terry

Streak-throated Swallow occurs from Oman in the west, through Pakistan and India to Nepal and Bangladesh in the east, occurring as a vagrant in Sri Lanka, the Arabian Gulf and Egypt. Just a month before the Beijing record, one was seen in Kuwait.            

With so few birders in Beijing, we know we are only scratching the surface in terms of understanding the birds of the capital, let alone China as a whole..  We always expect the unexpected.  But on 4 May something extraordinary happened – a South Asian species appeared in China for the first time.. not in Yunnan Province, the far south-west as one might expect, but in Beijing!  This almost unbelievable sighting was superbly documented by Beijing-based Colm Moore, just reward for his dedication to working his local patch at Shahe Reservoir.  You can read his full story on the Birding Beijing blog.  Wow!

STREAK-THROATED SWALLOW, Shahe Reservoir, Beijing, 4 May 2014 (Colm Moore)

STREAK-THROATED SWALLOW, Shahe Reservoir, Beijing, 4 May 2014 (Colm Moore).  The first record for China.

 

Offshore in the Pacific

South Seas ferries- The public pelagic

By Sam

The south Pacific- an unfathomably vast expanse of water peppered with myriads of sun-baked and hurricane-beaten islands- is relatively daunting territory for an independent travelling birder wishing to cover ground and experience the veritable smörgåsboard of spectacular natural history highlights on offer.
Although rife with terrestrial endemism, diversity is understandably very low on most islands and protracted periods spent in one location often lead to birding stagnation and sometimes insanity (in no given order).

Fortunately, however, as is the case with most island nations, regular (if not sometimes tenuously scheduled) boat services provide the main transport between islands. Although often creaky and a little uncomfortable, with an unevaluated capacity to deal with emergency situations at sea, these weathered bastions of the Pacific provide often unrivalled opportunities to spend cheap, quality time offshore in some of the least watched but most exciting pelagic locations in the world.

The unsung pelagic vessel?

The unsung pelagic?

At sea in Polynesia

A long winter on the island of Tutuila in the American Samoan archipelago, Polynesia, working on terrestrial birds offered scant opportunity to get offshore, but the chance to visit a field crew working on an island nearby finally offered some decent time travelling between islands. Buckets of chum no where to be seen, some of the finest bathymetry in the Pacific beckoned as we struck out to a stormy sunrise aboard as fine a craft for exploration as any- an old rusty ferry chuntering into the grey blue yonder..

The outbound journey, interspersed with heavy rainshowers, provided short spells of interest with numerous Tropical-type Shearwaters, revealing insights into the ongoing taxonomic conundrum of the Audobon’s/Little Shearwater Puffinus complex. These birds are likely to pertain to the dichrous central Pacific group of Tropical Shearwater.

Tropical Shearwater

Tropical Shearwater wheeling around against a dark and stormy sea at dawn

A handful of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters kept tubenose interest up, while a pod of Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphins joined in the fun. Sulids, in the shape of Red-footed and Brown Boobies provided plenty of close fly-bys as well as the vast feeding flocks of Black and Brown Noddies, with the odd Blue Noddie, White-tailed Tropicbird and Bridled Tern added to the mix.

Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphin pup

Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphin pup (note the Cookiecutter Shark wound)

Red-footed Booby

Red-footed Booby (white morph)

Wedge-tailed Shearwater

Wedge-tailed Shearwater- interestingly, all individuals observed and reported are dark morph birds in the immediate region

Although this outbound journey provided plenty of interest in commoner fare, the real target tubenoses remained elusive, as did a distant breaching cetacean (likely a Spinner Dolphin) or large pelagic fish sp.
Far less elusive, however, were more Hawksbill Turtles than you could shake a palm frond at, cruising around with tropical abandon in the balmy waters in the harbour of the island of Ofu.

Hawksbill Turtle

Hawksbill Turtle

Subsequently, a week spent in the beautiful Manu’a islands group allowed for a clean sweep of the terrestrial birds, including several endemic races (including the to-be-split and disjunct powelli race of Fiji Shrikebill). Good at-sea conditions heralded a much anticipated return crossing, the morning after we watched an unseasonal Humpback Whale puffing away offshore.

Seawatching Pacific style

Seawatching from shore Pacific style

IMG_1821

Striking out again, this time to brighter and less moody skies, albeit on a smaller vessel, a steady stream of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters throughout the crossing indicated birds were on the move. Greater luck was had when a pale-morph Herald Petrel appeared seemingly from nowhere on the port side and seared past at no more than 20ft away, fading into the horizon as quickly as it came.
Further interest was spiked shortly after, when a breaching Humpback provided wonderful, if not again too brief, views; perhaps the same individual as the previous evening. Finally, however, the main target tubenose materialised, the commonest of one the rarest genera of tubenoses, Pseudobulweria, in the shape of a Tahiti Petrel, giving exceptionally close views before banking away in our wake.

Tahiti Petrel

Excellent views (albeit without photos to match) of Tahiti Petrel with its trademark massive bill easily distinguishable.

Shortly after this initial encounter, a second petrel, almost certainly another Tahiti, was seen briefly carving away to our starboard side. This time, however, being on a smaller boat was not in our favour as the bird was rapidly lost behind the swell and never to be seen again. Two large and very brief dorsal fins relatively close inshore shared the same story, staying frustratingly elusive but perhaps pertaining to the inshore population of Rough-toothed Dolphins around the island of Tutuila.
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters continued to provide plenty of enjoyable viewing well into inshore waters, despite many hours of seawatching from shore not yielding a single tubenose.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater close inshore

Wedge-tailed Shearwater close inshore

All too quickly the return journey was over and we were back onshore amidst hordes of invasive Myna’s and the bustling, polluted harbour of Pago Pago. My mind, however, was still firmly offshore, wondering what else is really out there…

The opportunities and discoveries to be made offshore in vast regions of the Pacific are untapped and fully deserve more attention, with recent examples such as the putative discovery of New Caledonian Storm-petrel paying credence to this . Although the efforts for more adventurous travel and birding come with inherent elements of difficulty, the rewards often vastly outweigh the difficulties from both a travel and natural history perspective.

I encourage anyone wishing to seek adventurous and exciting birding; the outcomes of which could have genuinely useful outcomes for so many poorly understood pelagic seabirds; to consult your bathymetry, identify an interesting island chain and get offshore and explore the Pacific. What finer way to do so as well than allowing the rusty ferry to facilitate your journey.

Just imagine the possibilities!

 

Flamborough Bird Report 2013

Out now- how to get yours!!

2013 REPORT – OUT NOW!

Lots more on all things Flamborough HERE

The 2013 Flamborough Bird Observatory report is NOW AVAILABLE – for only £7.00!

Available from our Secretary here, or from our friends at RSPB Bempton Cliffs and YWT Living Seas Centre, South Landing

2013 was a memorable year at Flamborough superbly documented by FBO’s new and improved annual report – beautifully illustrated by a variety of artists including Jack Ashton-Booth, Ben Green, Ray Scally, DIM Wallace and Darren Woodhead.

In addition to a gallery of stunning colour photos, the Report features:

Summary of sightings of all the species recorded at Flamborough/Bempton through the year;
Breeding Bird Survey of Flamborough Cliffs YWT reserve;
Six-page breeding seabird report for Flamborough/Bempton Cliffs RSPB;
Ringing report, with stunning in-the-hand photos;
Summary of sightings for Butterflies, Moths, Dragonflies and Damselflies.

Finders’ accounts of the following species include ground-breaking ID features
– Baikal Teal – a first for Yorkshire and 5th for Britain;
– A first-winter Daurian Shrike;
– Britain’s first non-singing Iberian Chiffchaff;
– New ID insights on Siberian Lesser Whitethroat

 

Lots more on all things Flamborough HERE

Help with some photos please…

For an exciting wee project…

I am looking for some images to finish a project. Wondering if anyone who reads Birding Frontiers can help. Need to be of publishable quality etc. etc.

Here’s me wish list for anyone who can help:

Common Buzzard in Sept.- Dec.

Sparrowhawk in  Sept-Dec

Subalpine Warblers in autumn (August to December) of all 3 main taxa:  Eastern, Western and Moltoni’s

Yellow-streaked Warbler (either taxa)

Booted Warbler – autumn

British Treecreeper in October to December period

Sandwich Tern and Cabot’s Tern- September to December

Pallid Swift – autumn

Common Swift – autumn

 

If you think you can help please email:

martin (dot) go (at) virgin (dot) net as per the contacts page

Thanks!

Martin

adult male Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Yell, Shetland. Oct 2013. WANTED photos of ads and imms of all 3 species of Subalpine Warbler in the autumn

adult male Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Yell, Shetland. Oct 2013. WANTED photos of ads and imms of all 3 species of Subalpine Warbler in the autumn

One and the Same

The Common Marbled Carpet – Dysstroma truncata is a very variable species and can sometimes cause a few problems with ID

By Tony Davison

When I opened up my Moth Trap this morning, there were two main highlights from an otherwise very poor session. 1) A new species for my garden and a new photo for my website – Currant Pug – 2) Four colour forms of Common Marbled Carpet, presenting me with a great photo opportunity to capture the different colour forms of this species.

Common Marbled Carpet is a highly variable moth and one form that is unmistakeable has a large orange central patch on the forewing. There are numerous other forms that are a combination of greys, blacks and browns that can cause confusion with the Dark Marbled Carpet – Dysstroma citrata. The best and most reliable feature to separate citrata from truncata is the central “twin-peaked” projection of outer edge of central band on forewing which is longer and more pointed on citrata. Common Marbled Carpet is now on the wing.

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