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Request for help with Photos

Challenge Series: Book Two

Planning to have this out for the 2015 Rutland Birdfair.

We have had some great contributions of photos for various chapters in book two which is on a ‘winter’ theme. I am just looking for a few more and wonder if Birding Frontiers readers can help? We need good quality images of the following:


Great Grey Shrikes 

                                   – homeyeri

                                  – leucopterus

                                  – sibiricus

If you are able to help, please send low res images to martin ‘at’

Thanks very much!








Responses to Oriental Cuckoo Post

by Jochen Dierschke

Many thanks to all comments either received privately or on this blog!

In the meantime I received some much better pictures taken bei Oliver Nüssen:

Kuckuck_20150527_ONuessen_08 Kuckuck_20150527_ONuessen_07 Kuckuck_20150527_ONuessen_05 Kuckuck_20150527_ONuessen_09

Especially the last picture shows that also the lesser underwing-coverts are faintly barred and that the primaries have too many white bars for Oriental. Some people suggested that this bird might be a female. I am not very experienced in sexing Cuckoos, but most pictures of birds I’ve seen ringed and sexed do not fit the bird.

In Summary: Although the bird looks like being within the variation of Oriental, it seems more likely to be a Common Cuckoo. As the calls were never definitely heard from the bird in question, it may have been a different bird calling. The calls heard were also “three-note-calls”, making an Oriental unlikely.

At least we learnt some lessons on Cuckoo-ID, but it seems a nightmare to get an Oriental Cuckoo accepted in Europe outside Russia!

Oriental Cuckoo on Helgoland?

Jochen Dierschke

A strange cuckoo has troubled our minds the last days on Helgoland. Could it be an Oriental Cuckoo, a species not yet recorded safely in Europe outside its Russian breeding grounds?


The Cuckoo in question (picture by Thorsten Stegmann). Note the dark upperparts, the tiny appearance and the barring on the underparts.


On May 25th, local warden Felix Timmermann checked in early morning ID features of birds for his forthcoming trip to the Ural mountains, including the voice of Oriental Cuckoo. Only an hour later, he heard a Hoopoe-like call. The call sounded like the introduction part of Oriental Cuckoo song, but the bird remained unseen. Felix informed me, but I had no time to check due to a breeding bird survey on the neighbouring dune island. The next morning, only a few hundred meters away, another Hoopoe-like call (three syllables) was heard, but again no sighting of the bird.

In the morning of May 27th, a “strange Cuckoo” was seen by several birders at the 2nd site. I became a bit excited and went to see the bird. When I saw it, I realized several features consistent with what I knew about the ID of Oriental Cuckoos, so I tried to take pictures, especially in flight. The bird then flew to the other side of the island and was relocated there and gave excellent views. A check of the literature suggested that we needed to trap the bird. In the evening we erected mistnets close to his favoured site, but although we played the female call, which is supposed to be good for trapping cuckoos, the bird was not seen again. Also next morning we tried to trap, but it seemed that the bird had finally taken of, with a lot of caterpillars in his belly.

Looking in the literature, it became evident that not a single feature is unique to Oriental Cuckoo (except the song), but a combination of the features pointed towards Oriental:

Size: The bird looked tiny and short-billed in the field

Upperparts: Rather dark for a Common Cuckoo; some retained tertials and secondaries indicate a 2nd-year bird.

Underparts: The belly-streaking was not as dense in Common Cuckoo. On the pictures we counted 7-8 complete black bars from belly to breast. The width of the black bars varied between postures, but certainly they can be more obvious in Oriental. The vent and undertail coverts produced a large, unbarred peachy-buffish patch. Only the longest undertail-coverts were more whitish with black bars.

Underwing: The bird showed a White’s Thrush like underwing pattern with a broad white stripe. The lesser underwing-coverts were unmarked and buffish. The primary barring was rather bold, but the exact number of white bars could not be counted, as the bases of the primaries are partially covered by the greater coverts.

As Common Cuckoo is quite rare on the island in spring, it seems unlikely that several birds were involved in the sightings. So, we face a Cuckoo which calls like an Oriental, looks at least to me like an Oriental – but is this enough for a 1st record for Europe outside the Russian breeding areas? The Finnish birds have not been accepted, as there were some features odd for Oriental, like a call of three syllables, wing length (see Lindholm & Linden 2003, Alula 4: 122-133). Also the Helgoland cuckoo uttered a call with three syllables. However, this might be just a disturbed introduction of the song.

Oriental Cuckoo has not been safely recorded in Europe outside the Russian breeding grounds. However, it certainly should be on the radar of European birders!

Any comments on the ID of the bird – good or bad news – are very welcome!




The Helgoland Cuckoo in flight from below. Note the obvious underwing panel, especially the unmarked lesser underwing-coverts. Note also the barring and the pattern of the undertail coverts.


Note the retained juvenile tertials and the pattern of the undertail coverts.

Global Big Day — 9 May 2015

How many birds can be seen in a single day around the world? That’s the idea behind the Global Big Day effort being coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For more than 30 years, Cornell’s Team Sapsucker has been doing Big Days (Bird Races) to raise money for conservation (and support eBird). We’ve had some great times, from our awesome 294 species run in Texas to last year’s El Gigante that combined Arizona and California for 275 species. We had a great time at the Champions of the Flyway event last year in Israel. Other impressive totals we prefer to forget (Andrew Farnsworth is leading Marshall Iliff 2 to 1 for most flat tires [err, tyres] while driving on the Lab Big Days).


But what’s next? With the Cornell Lab’s centennial in 2015, we decided to make some big changes to the Big Day—most importantly to expand the team drastically. There are few things we enjoy more than going out and seeing how many birds we can see—and we want to share that fun with the world. For 2015 we invite everyone around to join us in an attempt to see as many species as possible on a single calendar day. Are 3000 species possible? 4000? More? Could we document half the species in the world? We have absolutely no idea—but that’s what makes it fun! For birds to count, all you need to do is enter them into eBird. Mark your calendars for 9 May 2015 for the first ever Global Big Day on International Migratory Bird Day and start spreading the word in your area.

This year is a little different from past Big Days because we are interested in the cumulative total from around the world. This means, if you are in Brazil there are 253 species that can’t be found anywhere else. India 57; Australia 347; Puerto Rico 16; Hawaii 33; California 2. Who wants to be responsible for Scottish Crossbill?

Golden-collared-Manakin_270Our hope is that miniature competitions will develop. Who will record more species, the United Kingdom or Portugal? New York or Massachusetts? Colombia or Ecuador? The main differences between this and other bird races, is that we are interested in the number of species we can see by working together—after all, that is the idea behind eBird.

We will be using the hashtag #GlobalBigDay and hope you will use it in discussing this on social media. We recognize that this is not the ideal date for birding all around the world, but we needed to start somewhere. Please let us know if you have any questions. We will be sending more information in the coming weeks.

To find out more head over to:

We realize that people may use other bird recording systems (e.g., Birdtrack), but our hope is that on this one day we can envision a world where all birders worldwide can bring their data together for a truly global snapshot. We continue to strategize with BTO and other groups around the world on how to fund and develop an integrated global system.

If you are new to eBird, take a look at our Quick Start Guide to get started.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Ahh, if only it were so simple! In eBird we have options to display common names in a variety of ways. If you like, you can go with the Yank version of Black-bellied Plover, but we expect many will prefer Grey Plover. eBird has eight English versions of Common Names including English (United Kingdom) (EN_UK) and English (IOC) (EN_IOC) which can be changed from eBird Preferences once you have an account. If you want more details on taxonomy and how this works, see this article.

And feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


Chris, Marshall, Brian, Tim, Jessie, Andrew, Ian and the entire eBird and Cornell Lab crew. Thanks also to Cornell student, Luke Seitz for the amazing Big Day art, which you can download here.

Ahh Spring at last…

Displaying Lapwing

Displaying Lapwing

Posted by Justin Carr.

Maybe it’s just me, but don’t you think spring has been dragging its heels this year. Well it is here at last. For me there is nothing more exciting than seeing the first Sand Martin skimming over my watery local patch. or the song of the first Chiffchaff.

Here are some of my shots from the last couple of weeks. All Digiscoped of course.

Mute Swans

Mute Swans

Sand Martin

Sand Martin



Hoverfly  sp.

Hoverfly sp.

Snakes Head Fratilery

Snakes Head Fratilery

And a few more from a trip to Flamborough. I popped into Thornwick Pools Nature reserve, Hats off to the local Birders for creating a great little reserve. I found the hide a super spot to get some nice close-ups of the locals.

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow

House Sparrows

House Sparrows

Make the most of the next six weeks of spring it will only get better!!

all pics Digiscoped on a Swarovski ATX 85.

Good Digiscoping. : )



An extreme Black Redstart

by Jochen Dierschke

On 11.4.2015, local birder Gotthard Krug, well-known for his finds of rare birds on Helgoland, came across a red-bellied Black Redstart. He phoned me and as I was only a hundred meters away, could soon confirm the oddity of this Black Redstart.


Record shot of the Black Redstart – look how distinctive it is!

Although I had previously seen Black Redstarts with some orange at the belly, this one was by far the most obvious I’ve ever seen. Ssp. phoenicuroides has no white wing flash, but I was not sure if other red-bellied subspecies do. So I decided to trap the bird and within half an hour it was in the bag. BR_total_1

BR_wing formula

Total view of the bird and wing formular; note the typical Black Redstart primary spacing.


Underpart colouration of the red-bellied bird (left) compared to a normal adult male (trapped today).

The bird, an adult male, was with 90 mm wing-length close to the upper limit of Black Redstarts and also the wing formula with the large step in the primaries was in line with this species. A quick check at home in the literature confirmed that no eastern subspecies shows this white wing flash and the primary spacing was against a hybrid (although this can not fully be excluded). Therefore the bird was a Black Redstart, though a rather unusual one.

 If this belly pattern can be shown also by the paradoxus-plumage-type, the ID would possibly be not that straightforward!