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Eastern Yellow Wagtail in Scilly

By Yoav Perlman

Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla (flava) tschutschensis is the eastern counterpart of Western Yellow Wagtail. It is divided into two main groups – ‘blue-headed’ with supercilium (tschutschensis and taivana), and ‘grey/black-headed’ without supercilium (plexa and macronyx).

Distribution map of yellow wagtails, from Bot, S., Gronendijk, D., and van oosten, H. H. (2014). Eastern yellow wagtails in -Europe: identification and vocalisations. Dutch Birding 36: 295-311.

Distribution map of yellow wagtails, from: Bot, S., Gronendijk, D., and van Oosten, H. H. (2014). Eastern yellow wagtails in Europe: identification and vocalisations. Dutch Birding 36: 295-311.

This is another taxon that seems to get identified in Western Europe in increasing frequency. There are three accepted records in the UK: Colyton, Devon in December 2010 bird that was DNA’d, featured in the definitive article by Sander Bot (2014) et al. (Dutch Birding 36: 295-311), Outer Skerries (Shetland) in 2011, and an old specimen from Fair Isle 1909. But there are some further recent strong candidates in the UK that ticked all (or most) boxes. Some have featured on Birding Frontiers before – for example here and here. Looking back through the archives of Birding Frontiers, the learning curve is apparent – Martin really pushed the boundaries here. With the progression of knowledge, it is possible that BBRC will accept future records without DNA, based on good photos and sound recordings.

This striking individual was present in Scilly earlier this month. To my eyes and ears it is a perfect example of an Eastern Yellow Wagtail. I want to thank Nigel Hudson (BBRC secretary) who helped me obtain material for this post, and kindly shared the ‘story’ of its discovery with me:

On October 13th, while Nigel was cutting his front garden grass, a group of birders that included Mark Andrews walked past his house as they headed out from Lower Moors on St. Mary’s. To his question if there was anything about, they showed him on their camera screens photos of an odd yellow wagtail, and they mentioned Eastern Yellow Wagtail as a possibility. Nigel rushed the whole 100 m from his house to where the wagtail was, and after initial views alerted local birders. They all obtained great photos of the bird and some sound recordings during the few days it stayed in the same area – a selection is presented here.

When identifying 1st-winter Eastern Yellow Wagtails, it is necessary to exclude Citrine Wagtail and Western Yellow Wagtail, and hybrids between the two (like this possible bird). A small proportion of 1st-winter Western Yellow Wagtails can give a similar monochromatic impression; and especially in the eastern fringes of the range; in beema and lutea, 1st-winters tend to be more monochromatic, lacking or almost lacking yellow and green tones, especially females (1st-winter males are on average yellower than females). In Eastern Yellow Wagtails a high proportion of 1st-winters are very grey-and-white. Some show faint yellow tones on the mantle, undertail coverts and tertial fringes, but the Scilly bird is as cold as it gets:

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. photo by Simon Knight.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Simon Knight http://simonknightphotography.zenfolio.com/.

Two Western Yellow Wagtails for comparison:

Western Yellow Wagtail (flava), Bet Kama, israel, 2 September 2013. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

Western Yellow Wagtail (flava), 1st-winter, Bet Kama, Israel, 2 September 2013. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

'British' Western Yellow Wagtail (flavissima), Spurn, East Yorkshire, 6 September 2015. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

‘British’ Western Yellow Wagtail (flavissima), Spurn, East Yorkshire, 6 September 2015. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

Eastern Yellow Wagtails are sometimes placed in the same phylogenetic clade together with Citrine Wagtail, and indeed share some morphological features.

DNA cladogram of several wagtail taxa, from Odeen, A., and Björklund, M. (2003). Dynamics in the evolution of sexual traits: Losses and gains, radiation and convergence in yellow wagtails (Motacilla flava). Molecular Ecology 12: 2113-2130.

DNA cladogram of several wagtail taxa, from: Odeen, A., and Björklund, M. (2003). Dynamics in the evolution of sexual traits: Losses and gains, radiation and convergence in yellow wagtails (Motacilla flava). Molecular Ecology 12: 2113-2130.

The call of Eastern Yellow Wagtail is close to the call of Citrine Wagtail, but not quite there with regard to high pitch and rasp.  Western Yellow Wagtail calls can be divided into two groups – sweet calls of western taxa (e.g. flavissima, flava) and rasping call of east European taxa (e.g. feldegg). I didn’t obtain a proper sound recording of the Scilly bird, but in this rather atmospheric video by Will Scott the diagnostic call can be heard at 0:06 (put your headphones on!).

Compared to Western Yellow, both Eastern Yellow and Citrine show more extensive white tips to greater and median coverts, creating two bolder white wingbars, and more white on tertial fringes.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Steve Young https://birdsonfilm.smugmug.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Steve Young https://birdsonfilm.smugmug.com/

Though rarely 1st-winter Citrine Wagtails show incomplete ear coverts surround, Eastern Yellow Wagtail can be readily identified by wholly or predominately dark ear coverts, narrower supercilium, and pale base to lower mandible, just about visible here in this brighter photo, where some faint yellow and green hues can be seen:

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Kris Webb.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Kris Webb.

1st-winter Citrine Wagtail for comparison:

Citrine Wagtail, 1st-winter, Ashdod, Israel, 16 September 2013. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

Citrine Wagtail, 1st-winter, Ashdod, Israel, 16 September 2013. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

Citrine and Eastern Yellow Wagtails also share a long hind-claw, longer than in Western Yellow. So if you see a wagtail with a hind-claw as long as this it might come from the east:

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Steve Young https://birdsonfilm.smugmug.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Steve Young https://birdsonfilm.smugmug.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Steve Young https://birdsonfilm.smugmug.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Steve Young https://birdsonfilm.smugmug.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Steve Young https://birdsonfilm.smugmug.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Steve Young https://birdsonfilm.smugmug.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Simon Knight http://simonknightphotography.zenfolio.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Simon Knight http://simonknightphotography.zenfolio.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Simon Knight http://simonknightphotography.zenfolio.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Simon Knight http://simonknightphotography.zenfolio.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Simon Knight http://simonknightphotography.zenfolio.com/

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Lower Moors, St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, October 2016. Photo by Simon Knight http://simonknightphotography.zenfolio.com/

Many thanks again to Nigel Hudson and Will Scott who helped me with information and contacts; and to photographers Simon Knight, Steve Young and Kris Webb – they all have stunning images of lots of cool birds, check their websites!

Desert Lesser Whitethroat @ Filey International

By Mark Pearson and Yoav Perlman

As in every autumn in recent years, reports of eastern taxa Lesser Whitethroats were rather frequent in recent weeks, mainly along the E coast and N Isles. Several were trapped and DNA samples obtained for ID confirmation. Very often they are first picked up by the ‘trrrrr’ call. It seems that almost every Lesser Whitethroat on the east coast in October has a good potential to be of an eastern origin. One of those that stood out was a very striking individual at Filey on October 17th by Mark Pearson – striking by being such a plain, brown job, that fits well with what would be expected from Desert Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca halimodendri. Not really stop press anymore, but to my eyes worth a mention. Siberian (S. c. blythi) and Desert Lesser Whitethroats were always Martin’s favourite, featuring in many posts (e.g. here and here) and in Martin’s Challenge Series: Autumn book too. In the previous posts the taxonomic position of this taxon is discussed (and always good to redirect to this important paper that clarifies the taxonomy of Lesser Whitethroats). I think that now, with current developments in taxonomy and field birding, classic individuals like this can be readily identified in the field.

 

Handing over to Mark now:

Flushing a small, sandy warbler with strikingly white outer-tail feathers from a field edge just a few metres from the clifftop, especially in the midst of long-term easterlies (delivering Asian waifs to the east coast) couldn’t help but the raise the alarm bells, and from there on it was cat-and-mouse along the nearest hedgerow. Long periods of staring blankly into the hawthorn were followed by intermittently close views as the bird materialised seemingly out of nowhere several times.

Having had several strong candidates for Siberian blythi here over the last few years – including a striking bird a couple of weeks earlier nearby (which not only fitted the visual, but also gave the rattle call) – this bird was clearly something very different. Trying to remember conversations with Martin as well as the features described in the Autumn: Frontiers book were at least partially successful and I roughly recalled the basics (including tail pattern), and after prolonged observations, all were apparently present and correct.

Small-bodied, large-headed, short-billed, short-winged, ‘cute’ appearance; poorly defined weak mask, suffused with brown:

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Sandy brown upperparts, extending concolourously not only over the nape, but all the way across the crown to the base of the bill:

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Noticeably long tail, often cocked

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Entirely white outer web of T6, and extensive white tips on at least T5 and T4

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Desert Lesser Whitethroat, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016. Photo by Mark Pearson

Field sketch of Desert Lesser Whitethroat tail pattern, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016, by Mark Pearson

Field sketch of Desert Lesser Whitethroat tail pattern, Filey, North Yorkshire, 17 October 2016, by Mark Pearson

Taking into account the fact that photos of Lesser Whitethroats can often be misleading, particularly regarding the extent and exact shade of subtle plumage tones in different lights, it’s worth pointing out that those which capture this bird’s tones were taken in flat, dull light (and not in bright or sunny conditions that can often ‘over-saturate’ these features); observations fully supported this, to the point that it was almost hard to believe the bird was actually a Lesser Whitethroat at times.

While the assessment criteria of field records of vagrant Desert Lesser Whitethroats is still apparently developing (and my knowledge is limited to say the least), on current understanding and by process of elimination – plumage, proportions, tail pattern etc. – it seems difficult to seriously consider anything else…. thoughts very welcome.

 

Another small comment by YP:

Ageing the bird is possible from these images. PC are worn and brown-fringed (see 2nd image from top), which is typical for young birds. Adult would have broader, fresher, grey-fringed PC. This bird has moulted most of its tail – two central TF pairs are unmoulted, and outer 4 pairs are replaced or growing. This partial moult is also typical for young birds. The central tail feathers are exteremely worn, pointed and brown. The newly grown outer TF have broad and white tips rather than limited off-white tips that are typical for unreplaced young outer TF (see here for demonstration of this).

Replaced adult-type TF typically have more extensive white tips to TF, and more TF with white tips than juvenile-type TF. This complicates the understanding whether a bird has ‘much white’ or ‘little white’. For this, ageing the bird and the TF correctly is essentail. The extreme amount of white shown by the Filey bird is more than any adult-type TF of curruca and blythi can show.

new-doc-6_2

Juvenile Red-necked Stint in Norway!

By Yoav Perlman

On September 23rd, Sigmar Lode, a Norwegian birder, was on his favourite patch at Nærland, Rogaland, in southwestern Norway. He had American peeps on his mind, especially after the decent arrival in Ireland and UK in preceding weeks. Just before leaving, he spotted a small 1cy peep, that structurally was clearly not a Little Stint. Sigmar had two Semipalmated Sandpipers at the same site 4 years ago, so naturally that was his first thought. He knew he needed photos, especially of the webbing between the toes. He fired off some OK shots, but they did not show any webbing! Then he got some more shots of the bird, and thought he saw something like webbing between the toes . Sigmar was happy – that are only few Norwegian records of Semipalmated Sandpiper. He uploaded his images on Facebook and his initial ID was generally accepted.

A few days later, sharp-eyed Tor Olsen, Oddvar Heggøy, Bjørn Olav Tveit and Geir Kristensen noticed further photographs of the bird by Trond Ove Stakkeland that emerged online – these excellent sharp photos shown here courtesy of Trond:

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

NO WEBBING!

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

Juvenile Red-necked Stint, Norway, September 2016. Image by Trond Ove Stakkeland

[First a quick hats-off to Tor – he is a member of the Norwegian Rarities Committee (NSKF). He has had a great autumn so far – he found an (apparent) Alder Flycatcher just over a week ago – the bird was trapped, and DNA samples will hopefully confirm the ID]

Back to the stint: Tor and his peers Oddvar Heggøy, Bjørn Olav Tveit, Kjell Mjølsnes, Simon Rix, Egil Ween and Geir Kristensen reviewed the new images and became certain this is not a Semipalmated Sandpiper, but rather a juvenile Red-necked Stint! It was a real team effort that led to this outstanding ID. Also Harry Hussey from Ireland was involved in the ID process. When Harry sent the photos to me I had no access to literature but my jaw dropped instantly. I will use Martin’s language – BOOM! Or to be more precise FLIPPIN’ MEGA BOOM!

Red-necked Stint is another rare bird in Norway, with four previous accepted records, typically of adults in June – July. But a record of a non-adult is almost unprecedented in the WP – the only other record involves a juvenile Red-necked Stint found dead on Fair Isle in August 1994.  So this is possibly the first European record of a living juvenile! Finding a WP young Red-necked Stint in the field remained the Holy Grail of bird identification for many years. I know it’s easy in retrospect, but looking at these photos – it really is possible to ID them in the field. This record needs to be accepted first by the Norwegian rarities committee, but my vote would be YES!

There are two main confusion species – Little Stint and Semipalmated Sandpiper. A good review of the identification of juvenile peeps was written by the late Russell Slack in 2006 – here on Birdguides. Identification of this bird as Red-necked Stint involved both a ‘holistic’ view of structure and jizz, and meticulous scrutiny of feather tracts. I will try to summarise the main features that caught the Norwegian team’s eyes:

General structure

Compared to Little Stint, this bird in shorter-legged, and longer reared. In some literature it is mentioned that wings always projects beyond tail tip, but there is much variation in this feature and the short projection of the primary tips beyond the tail is alright for Red-necked Stint. Red-necked Stint is also longer-reared than Semipalmated Sandpiper. Semipalmated has longer legs than flat-bottomed Red-necked, and has a shorter wing projection beyond tail, giving a less long-reared impression. Red-necked has a unique combination of a long rear and a rather full chest.

Bill structure

This bird has a short bill, thicker than Little Stint but thinner and not as blunt-tipped as Semipalmated. It must be noted that all peeps show huge variation in bill length and structure, very much related to sexual and age-related variation.

Check these longs legs and long, thin bill of a typical juvenile Little Stint:

Juvenile Little Stint, Ashdod, Israel, September 2010. Photo by Yoav Perlman

Webbing between toes

Practically none! Again, some Semi-p’s show less developed webs, but the Norwegian bird had less webbing than any Semi-p can show. Many thanks to Steve Duffield for this excellent semi-p shot below – he has lots more on his website. Note here the toe webbing and powerful, blunt-tipped bill:

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Gualan, South Uist,Outer Hebrides. Photo by Steve Duffield.

Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper, Gualan, South Uist,Outer Hebrides, August 2016. Photo by Steve Duffield.

Moult

This bird has already replaced some scapulars and mantle feathers to 1st-winter plumage (which is essentially similar to adult winter plumage). This is typical for 1cy Red-necked Stint, but would be very unusual for Semipalmated – semi-p’s rarely start moulting (or molting…) before mid October. Some Little Stints already moult in September, but their moult would be on average less developed, and their replaced winter-plumaged feathers are not as pale grey and plain as shown by the Norwegian bird, but have more prominent shaft streaks.

General plumage patterns

Compared to Little Stint, the Norwegian bird has much less distinct saddle V’s, and the fact that it has less black on the scapulars and coverts creates a much less patterned impression.Also the juvenile coverts are very pale and uniform, which is spot-on for Red-necked Stint. The beautiful grey smudge across the breast-sides and into the breast, with indistinct streaking, is also typical for Red-necked Stint. Little Stint has fine, normally warm toned streaks on the breast sides. Semi-p has also more defined streaking on the breast.

The Norwegian bird shows a nice brown cap, warmer toned than normal Semi-p’s. However, I found much variation in this feature checking online images, so I am not sure whether this is an important feature. Semipalmated normally shows dark and well-defined ear coverts, but see the South Uist bird above… I also don’t like the split supercilium stuff- really variable and depends on position of the bird. IMO very difficult to interpret from photos.

Scapulars pattern

Semi-p is known for its anchor-shaped dark tips to juvenile lower scapulars. Little Stint has typically very full, dark scapulars (see in the photo above). The Norwegian bird showed a typical pattern for Red-necked Stint:  thin dark shaft streaks and limited V-shaped dark tips, resembling Semi-p but generally the scapulars are paler and more uniform.

Call

I don’t know if anyone heard or sound-recorded the Norwegian bird, but it should be the best way to identify peeps. Red-necked Stint has a call very different from Little Stint – to my ears lower pitched and softer, somewhat recalling Dunlin. Listen here and here. Little Stint has a higher-pitched and clearer flight call. Semipalmated Sandpiper has funny, drawn-out and soft calls.

So to conclude:

The brilliant ID skills of the Norwegian team allowed this breakthrough in WP Birding Frontiers! They demonstrated that with good views and understanding of the important structural and plumage features, it is possible to identify non-adult-summer Red-necked Stints in the WP. Hopefully their confidence will motivate more keen birders to find further juveniles. Now is the time!

My tribute to Martin

I am honoured that Sharon has invited me – amongst others – to continue to post to Martin’s Birding Frontiers blog, following his untimely death after a long courageous battle with cancer. Before I do so, however, I wanted to write my tribute to the great man. It has taken me some time because it has been very difficult for me to put into words just how much Martin meant to me.

It may sound over the top but I make no apology; Martin was an inspiration to me as a birder, photographer and a man.  I first met Martin in the late 1990s at Poolsbrook Country Park, Derbyshire when he introduced me to the intricacies of gull identification.  By that stage I’d been birding seriously for about 20 years and was no slouch, but Martin’s knowledge far surpassed mine and he opened my eyes. Not only did he open my eyes and expand my knowledge but he inspired me and positively encouraged me to pursue my digiscoping be it video or stills. He recognised my digiscoping skills and his mantra “Be the best you can be” echoes in my ears. To hear Martin say that I was “pushing the boundaries” with my digiscoping is much-treasured praise.

Martin was a real expert in bird identification – he was at the top of his game.  Queries were invariably referred to him. Martin was definitely the ” man who does”.  It’s no surprise therefore that Birding Frontiers was ground breaking stuff,  being  interesting and informative with many learned contributors and experts from around the world. I was really proud therefore when Martin asked me to contribute on digiscoping.

I also have Martin to thank for my working relationship with Swarovski which has been beneficial to me in pursuing my digiscoping passion.

Martin will be sadly missed by me and many others but his knowledge and his willingness to spread and share that knowledge will live on through his Challenge books and Birding Frontiers.

Justin Carr

2013-07-17 Eurasian Cuckoo2

The Beijing Cuckoo Project

By Terry

We are excited to announce the launch of The Beijing Cuckoo Project, a new initiative that has the potential to make a huge difference to conservation in China whilst, at the same time, making ground breaking scientific discoveries.

Following the hugely successful, and ongoing, citizen science project to track the Beijing Swift, over the last few months we have been working with partners in the UK and China to replicate the BTO’s Cuckoo Tracking Project in China’s capital.

The Cuckoo – famous for laying its eggs in the nests of other, often smaller, birds – is a popular and well-known bird in Beijing.  The life of the Cuckoo, including a wonderful account of the ongoing evolutionary battle between the Cuckoo and its hosts, was covered eloquently by Nick Davies in his award-winning book – Cuckoo: Cheating By Nature.

Cuckoo and Reed Parrotbill

In China, one of the host species of Eurasian Cuckoo is Reed Parrotbill!

The Beijing Cuckoo Project has the potential to deliver two incredibly exciting outcomes. The first is to engage the public in China, on an unprecedented scale, about the wonders of bird migration. The second is to discover the currently unknown wintering grounds, and migration routes, of Eurasian Cuckoos breeding in East Asia – vital if conservationists are to understand how best to protect the Cuckoo and similar migratory species.

As in the UK, we plan to deploy ultra-lightweight satellite tags onto as many as 10 cuckoos in the Beijing area. Drawing on the BTO’s expertise and experience, Chris Hewson, a leading scientist from the UK, will travel to Beijing to train local volunteers and lead the catching and fitting of the tags.

Local schoolchildren will name the cuckoos and follow their progress as part of a specially designed “environmental curriculum”.

13th middle school

Students from Beijing’s 13th Middle School recently received their certificates as the first graduates of the “Environmental Curriculum” and will follow the progress of the Beijing Cuckoos as part of their ongoing studies.

National and local media will cover the project via their print and online publications. A special APP will allow members of the public to follow their progress, too, providing information about cuckoos, maps showing their latest positions and the routes taken, as well as background about the project.

We are delighted that around 75% of the funding has been raised through generous donations from the Zoological Society of London, Oriental Bird Club, the British Birds Charitable Trust and Beijing Forestry University. We are also fortunate to enjoy in kind support from the British Trust for Ornithology, the China Birdwatching Society and the many volunteers who will be involved.

However, given the costs of “satellite services”, the costs associated with accessing the data transmitted by the tags, and the costs of maintaining the dedicated APP, we still need to raise another GBP 10,000 over the next 12 months.

That is why we have set up a new, dedicated JustGiving page to allow anyone wishing to be part of this project to contribute. The page can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/BeijingCuckooProject

Everyone involved with the Beijing Cuckoo project is excited about the potential and all donors, with their permission, will be recognised on the interpretation material that will be erected at the catching sites in Beijing.

Please join us in being part of an incredible and worthwhile project!

Martin in Shetland

From the Birding Frontiers team

Birding Frontiers was launched in autumn 2010, and has since become one of the most popular birding blogs in Britain and beyond. It was the brainchild of Martin Garner, and its style and character perfectly reflected his continuous quest for new discoveries and for learning. Martin’s irrepressible enthusiasm was the rocket fuel that powered this particular spacecraft. Boooom!

Once the blog had taken off and become properly airborne, Martin enlisted the help of various other people, who were cajoled and persuaded to write for Birding Frontiers. It became more of a team effort after that although Martin remained firmly anchored at the heart of the project: his expertise, his vision and above all his communication skills were critical.

Martin died in late January 2016, after a battle with cancer that lasted more than two years. His death leaves a gaping hole in the birding scene; he was a larger-than-life character who inspired everyone who met him and spent time with him in the field. Now that Sharon has posted her own tribute, we, the team members, wish to pay our respects and record our thanks to Martin; send our deepest condolences to Sharon, Abigail and Emily; and acknowledge that life without Martin will not be the same.

It is unbelievably sad to think that Martin is no longer with us. He touched so many people with his enthusiasm, curiosity and positivity. I am one of them. I started following his Birding Frontiers blog soon after its launch in 2010, just a year after moving to Varanger. I had moved to a new place full of expectations and a desire to make difference, all based on my passion for birding. In Martin’s blog I found a voice that inspired my own birding and sense of discovery. It was a voice with that rare combination of the expertly skilled birder but at the same time it was humble and open. Moving to Varanger was a big choice for me, and my family. We wanted to make birding and nature a key part of our lives.

It did not take long before I had an opportunity to contact Martin. Sometimes, I guess, that is how a friendship can start – with a guy in Arctic Norway sending some photos of an odd-looking Bean Goose to a guy in Sheffield. That was the start of a longer correspondence, with eye-opening and inspirational input from Martin. Soon after that, I found an opportunity to invite Martin to Varanger. In 2011 he joined a trip I led, and that was the start of a good friendship based on our shared passion for birding.

Martin was the most generous person I have ever met. We talked birds and birding, and Martin’s sharp thinking was already predicting new birds in Varanger, birds that surely had to be found if we only we looked for them! Glaucous-winged Gull, Stejneger’s Scoter and Pacific Eiders are well documented now, as Martin expected them to be. But our passion for birds also included people. Since our first tour in Varanger we have shared so many great experiences both on tour in the UK and on several events in Varanger.

Thinking of Martin now I am left with so many great memories. For that I am very thankful. Our crazy busy and buzzing ‘Pushing the Boundaries Tour’ around the UK was one of the highlights of my birding life. It was everything we set to do: enjoy great birding, meet inspirational people and to share our passion for birding with others. Martin will be dearly missed as a key influence in my life. Thank you, Martin.

Tormod Amundsen

Martin and Ian Lewington enjoying ´the King Eider vortex´ in Vardø, during Gullfest 2013. An amazing day of birding, in the best company.

Martin and Ian Lewington enjoying ´the King Eider vortex´ in Vardø, during Gullfest 2013. An amazing day of birding, in the best company.

In every profession, in every walk of life, there are those that stand out from the crowd, those that push boundaries, those that set the bar for the rest of us to aim at. Martin was one of those people. With boundless energy, big inquisitive eyes and an ear-to-ear smile Martin pushed our understanding of bird ID, and how we should look at bird ID, further in a decade than had been done in the previous half century.

My involvement with Birding Frontiers started at the Hula Valley Bird Festival – where better. Martins enthusiasm for my and Richard Moores’ interest in mammals was amazing and he soon invited me to contribute to the Birding Frontiers website. Throughout the time I knew him, his enthusiasm never faltered and he was always keen to hear any thoughts I might have had on mammals or birds in a never-ending quest to learn more about the subject we are all most passionate about. His legacy, as well as happy memories and informative pages to turn, will be the way we approach identification, with open minds and without the fear of being wrong. If nothing else Martin taught us that being wrong is absolutely fine, why else do we fall if not to learn?

Dan Brown

I have been aware of Martin’s papers since I was a little lad, a very young birder !  I remember reading all his papers with great admiration as I could get the feeling that I could find in his work my own way of life: CURIOSITY! PASSION! LOVE! And that the main target was to pose questions and to study more… not necessarily to solve problems definitively or to give the (presumed) final word on something. That was how it was for me, that is like it still is. At the time I had several ‘heroes’, including Killian Mullarney, Richard Porter, DIM Wallace, Lars Jonsson, Hans Larsson and MARTIN GARNER! Among the bird artists my heroes were and still are John Gerard Keulemans, K. De Mees, John Smith (for reptiles), Lorenzo Starnini, Ian Lewington,  Brian J Small, Lars Jonsson and Hans Larsson. Over the course of many years, I have met and become a friend of most of these (apart from the artists of the 1800s of course!).

I first met Martin in Linosa island, a paradise for Italian birders. I invited Martin and he came straightaway! Typical of his true enthusiasm for life, for descovering, for SHARING! He then invited me to join BF team. When I, and the rest of my birding team MISC met him, we discovered that he was not only a great birder, that’s too easy; he was a great MAN as well, and that’s really hard !  Martin was like a luminescent person, one of those person you met once and they shine light on you. I AM MISSING HIM! That’s it… no other words !

Andrea Corso

I first met Martin on Shetland, in September 2011. I was birding in Unst, when a minibus came whizzing up the road and pulled up alongside my car. I instantly recognised Martin, and the look of excitement on his face. It was the start of a short but great friendship.

‘Hi guys, I’ve found a really interesting Lesser Whitethroat and I’d like a few others to see it!’ Very soon we were watching that Lesser Whitethroat, at close quarters, feeding in a lines of rose bushes. Martin quickly began to point out the interesting features of this ‘eastern’ bird and his attention to detail was amazing. It soon became clear to me and the rest of the group watching the bird, that it was not a normal Lesser Whitethroat.

This was Martin in his element, ‘frontier birding’ in real life. Martin’s enthusiasm for birding was there for all to see and this has had a massive impact on me, as it has on many other people. I feel so very privileged to have had Martin as a friend, if only for a short period of time.

I was very flattered, in fact amazed, when he asked me to join his BF team. At the time I didn’t really know why. Who am I to be asked to join such a distinguished group? I questioned Martin and in his amicable way he said: ‘Don’t worry Tony: enjoy, become part of the learning, there is so much more out there to be discovered.’ He put those words into my two Challenge Series Books, at the birdfair last year and I’ll treasure them always.

So, many thanks Martin, for your enthusiasm, spirit and belief and for pushing the boundaries of birding in such a unique way. Au revoir.

Tony Davison

Martin in Shetland

Martin in Shetland

I’d often heard of Martin Garner and when I asked him to give a lecture at a birders’ meeting on Helgoland, I was very happy when he agreed. When I met him here on my tiny home island, I realized that he was not only an excellent birder, but also a great person! On the meeting as well as later in many discussions by email he was full of new questions, mainly concerning the recognition of difficult-to-identify species. When he invited me to the Birding Frontiers team, I felt honoured, although I could not contribute as much as I would have wanted. I was really shocked when I heard of Martin’s illness, and when finally the news of his death got through to me (I was in a remote part of north-east India), I was very sad. I will miss the many discussions with him and would have liked to meet him more often than just once!

Jochen Dierschke

Martin on Helgoland

Martin on Helgoland

Martin’s work was a great inspiration, not only for British birdwatchers, but also reaching out to the rest of Europe and beyond. More than anything, I think that his greatest contribution to the birding society was getting people to talk to each other and think together; ignoring prestige and instead focusing on the increase of our collective knowledge. And always with a smile.

Magnus Hellström

Unlike others here, it is with great sadness that I have to admit that I never met Martin. Like all others here, however, all I have is positive memories from many excited phone conversations and correspondence over the last few years. Thus, it is with some apprehension that I write this, in the knowledge that many others knew him far better than myself and that I can’t do it the justice I wish I could.

Martin and I began corresponding a few years ago due to some of the work I am involved in, primarily in the tropics, where often even the most basic information on species is completely unknown. I vividly remember our first chat on the phone, his famed enthusiasm oozing through the airwaves as we talked on and on about how very much there is to learn, both at home as much as the remotest mountains in the unbirded regions of the word. It was as clear to me then as much as it is now that Martin was a master of the trade, not only in the field, but also in connecting people, motivating ideas and removing the stigmas that birding and ornithological circles can sometimes generate. Naturally, I was flattered when Martin asked if I’d be interested in getting involved in his new vision for Birding Frontiers. It became apparent to me, however, that it was never about pedestals, it was his way of getting people to look deeper, learn more and get excited, all with the idea that if you’re doing it with a smile on your face, you’re doing it right- what a legacy to be remembered by.

Sam Jones

Martin Garner was a truly admirable person, and one who has inspired countless birders, including me. His deep enthusiasm and willingness to discover, ask questions about everything, and especially share his findings with others, definitely led many of us to becoming better birders – and people. I will always be grateful to him for that. I first had contact with Martin regarding my local Yellow-legged Gulls, a subject he was really passionate about, and ever since then we have had constant email exchange, about all sorts of things. After meeting him for the first time at Gull Fest, and attending one of his lectures (which was truly inspirational) I then had the opportunity to invite him to come  along to Lanzarote, to experience our pelagic trips. We were fortunate in having Martin with us a couple of times, spending a lot of time with him out in the field, and thankfully I got to know him better. He was, above all, a great guy, always trying to help, and none of us will ever forget him and his attitude. Rest in peace my friend.

Dani López-Velasco

 

 

Dani and Martin at Gullfest, April 2012

Dani and Martin at Gullfest, April 2012

In November 2013 Martin visited me in Israel. We birded in the Negev and saw this female Siberian Stonechat. In the field it showed no white on the tail bases at all. I was convinced it was a female hemprichii. Martin didn’t believe me. We set a net up and in a few minutes it was in the hand. One blow on the uppertail coverts, and boom! White bases to tail feathers! Martin couldn’t stop laughing for a long time!

Yoav Perlman

Yoav

I feel very lucky to have known Martin Garner as a friend and as a birder. Martin devoted his life to care, encouragement and inspiration of others. He inspired and guided me in my personal life and also with my birding; encouraging me to believe in myself and to never be afraid to ask questions (even if there were no answers)! I was lucky enough to spend time birding with Martin during trips abroad, where his infectious enthusiasm, wealth of knowledge and willingness to teach (and be taught) made for an incredibly rich experience. The photograph below was taken by Jonathan Meyrav during our trip to the Hula Bird Festival. Martin is stood with me in front of a tree containing a Great Spotted Eagle and an Eastern Imperial Eagle. This is one of many fantastic memories I have of my time spent with Martin.

It is so sad and unfair to have lost such a wonderful and beautiful human being. I feel very privileged to have known him.

Tristan Reid

Tristan

Martin first came to Shetland in 2009, on the first of many successful tours with Shetland Nature. The photo below sums him up: at the centre of a rare-bird discovery in the most unpromising of circumstances, and an integral part of the team event that unfolded that afternoon. And with a great big smile on his face.

Roger Riddington

From left: Brydon Thomason, RR, Fiona Barclay, Mike Weedon, Martin and Dominic Mitchell, in the Fetlar ‘Taiga Fly garden’.

From left: Brydon Thomason, RR, Fiona Barclay, Mike Weedon, Martin and Dominic Mitchell, in the Fetlar ‘Taiga Fly garden’.

Even though I met Martin only once, I will miss him as if he was a family member. He was, and will continue to be, an inspiration to me as he has been to countless others. This photo is of Martin receiving a book – The Natural History of Selbourne, by Gilbert White – a gift from Beijing birders in recognition of the value of the Challenge Series to east Asian birders. It has been a huge honour to be associated with Martin through the Birding Frontiers website and the Challenge Series and his spirit will live on!

Terry Townshend

Terry

I first met Martin during one of the annual Dutch Birding days, where he was the main speaker, I guess around seven years ago. His talks blow me away – and not only me…! We had some email contact before about ID issues but wooow, this man was not just a great birder and nice guy, but a fabulous speaker too! At the end of the day we came to talk about Steppe Buzzard ID and a friendship was born. A few years later we did two days birding around the north of Holland, together with my friends Diederik Kok en Jeroen de Bruyn. It was an extreme cold period and even the Waddensea towards Texel was largely frozen.

Over the last five years we have discussed many ID issues, and even until this day, every time an ID issue comes across, I think, I wonder… what would Martin think about this? The loss is just starting to sink in, but the inspiration he gave me and so many others will live much longer.

Nils van Duivendijk

Martin on Texel in February 2012. Martin, who else, had just found a very good candidate adult Russian Common Gull (heinei). Here, I am positioning my scope for Martin to digiscope it.

Martin on Texel in February 2012. Martin, who else, had just found a very good candidate adult Russian Common Gull (heinei). Here, Nils is positioning his scope for Martin to digiscope it.

Some Great Birding on Yorkshires east coast.

posted by Justin Carr.        The past few Weeks have been pretty good for birding on the coast from Hornsea upto Scarborough. With a few Rarities and and a good supporting cast of scarce birds thrown in. with influxes of wild geese and Owls.

Here’s a  few pics from the last few weeks.

One of the 3 Richards pipits

  One of the 3 Richards pipits

3 Richards pipits have been a popular attraction at North Landing Flambrough  mostly frequenting the same weedy field just east of the car park and at the time of writing still present. Richards pipits  in recent years seem to be overwintering in increasing numbers especially on the coast.

Peregrine

Peregrine

supporting cast came in the shape of this one of my favorite birds a Peregrine. i was really happy to capture this shot as it sailed by.

Kestrel

Kestrel

Also manged to capture this Kestrel hanging in the updraft of the cliffs it was a rather breezy day ( we seem to have had a lot of them lately ).

Short eared owl

Short eared owl

Apparently vole numbers have crashed this winter this would account for the influx of owls into the UK most notably Short eared owls. if you live near any landscaped pit tips you have good chance of picking one of these  stunners up. this bird took up residence on the grassy slopes along North bay Scarbrough and was remarkably confiding, after many dog walkers came and went the owl got up for a fly around then astonishingly came to land about 5 meters away

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

I have made a few trips to Hornsea mere but as is often the case there the good birds where rather distant and imposible to photograph, a shame as there has been regular sightings of Red necked and Slavonian Grebes as well as Long tailed Duck and a brief Kumlins Gull. i have included the Mute Swan well because i rather like it in the fading evening light.

And last but not least a immature Drake Surf scoter has took a liking to filey bay, on both occasions it to was to distant for anything other than a record shot.

Surfer

Surfer

so instead i thought i would post this surfer just to show you you can Digiscope more than just wildlife.

all images Digiscoped on a Swarovski ATX 85.                                                                                        GOOD Digiscoping!!