Spurn and Flamborough on 6th September 2014
Not expected. I mean it seems awful early. The earliest confirmed Siberian (blythi) is 10th September, in Shetland. Perhaps some are earlier this year. Perhaps they have been overlooked in the past? It’s a bit manic since we have moved to Flamborough- birders all over my driveway today for an obliging Red-breasted Flycatcher in the sycamore across the road. Baltic Gull and Caspian Gull mania too. So apologies for lack of stuff- I am going to have to learn to blog a bit quicker :). Hope its OK. (Red-breasted Fly is still visible in sycamore as I type- this is so cool!)
The first apparent/ candidate blythi was last Sunday 7th September at the Spurn Migration Festival. I think Pim Wolf had at least something to do with it. It was a ‘brown’ headed Lesser Whitethroat and photos of upperside of outermost tail feather appear to show it mostly gleaming white. It looked a good candidate to me. I then returned to Flamborough and found one on Monday 8th Sept. The same bird had actually be seen by Anthony Capuano on the Sunday. So 2 blythi candidates, Flamborough and Spurn-both turned up on the same day
Picking one out:
Chatting with Pim and comparing own notes. Sure there are caveats but the brush strokes seem to be that nominate curruca has whiter underparts- less contrast tween white throat and unders- often white bleeds from throat all way down central unders. Some blythi types more buff tones below with stronger contrast with marked white throat. Subtle but can catch the eye.
Head looks roughly brown headed on blythi type, blue headed on young curruca.That’s wildly overstating it but I find it a useful handle. You have to practice on curruca which can be quite pallid headed but the soft grey tone of head tends to be more uniform over head (apart from central nape versus overall browner head with more restricted ‘blue’ on blythi types. It’s a working hypothesis.
Once you see an interesting one- 3 things to look for. rattle call, wing formula and tail pattern. It’s all written up and beautifully illustrated in the Challenge series: AUTUMN.
Here was my first chance to test it this autumn. Here’s the Flamborough bird on Monday 8th September. call infrequent tack only. Tail feathers not well seen. But wing formula photographed to some useful degree.
P.S. taxonomically, blythi- Siberian Lesser Whitethroat may well be best treated as full species. So one worth looking for! Lots more info in THE BOOK!
So here’s a normal looking ‘nominate’ curruca on 4th September in me Flamborough garden. Powdery grey over head and rather white unders
and here’s the brown headed bird at Flamborough on 8th September. Looks like one to me!!
check out the head and underparts:
So the wing formula. P2 looks short- about p6/p7 or even = p7
here’s the wing of a nominate curruca at same angle, the next day (9th Sept) at Ottenby Bird Obs (thanks to the wonderful Magnus Hellstrom)