Tag Archives: Faroe Islands

Interesting Redstart on Faroes

So, it seems that I fell into the pitfall I had warned from…

After posting this earlier on, I received some comments regarding the age of this bird. I made a mistake in ageing the bird – sadly reflecting how few Redstarts I have ringed since moving here three years ago (zero). I was pointed out that what I misinterpreted as moult limit in greater coverts (GC) is in fact normal pattern for adults, and that 1cy would normally sow a moult limit also in median coverts (MC). Additionally, all tertials have very neat, grey fringes – typical of adult feathers. Juvenile tertials have thinner buff fringes. See below some examples. In the bottom line, since this bird is an adult, it is NOT a strong sammamisicus candidate. I have corrected the post below with this new context.

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Silas Olofson is one of the keenest birders on Faroe Islands. Silas has an amazing autumn for rarity finding, including Faroes first Parrot Crossbill and White-crowned Sparrow. Great stuff. On top of all those brilliant rarities, Silas found on October 4th at Sørvágur what in my eyes is the most interesting bird from an ID point of view. On the same morning he found Faroes first Parrot Crossbill and 4th OBP, Silas bumped into this eye-catching male Redstart with large white wing panel:

Redstart, Sørvágur, Faroe Islands, 4 October 2017. Photo by Silas Olofson.

Putative Ehrenberg’s Redstart, Sørvágur, Faroe Islands, 4 October 2017. Photo by Silas Olofson.

Unfortunately, the encounter was too brief. Silas managed to snap a few quick photos of the bird before it vanished. He never heard it, sadly. Obviously, when encountering such a bird, sammamisicus (Ehrenberg’s Redstart) jumps to mind. However, especially in far NW European context, identification needs to be very cautious.

First step in identification of this SE European (and further east into Asia) taxon in autumn is ageing it correctly. This individual shows what to crap birders like myself would look like a clear moult limit in GC, but in fact this is typical adult pattern, as explained above.

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Check how proper moult limit looks like this 1cy male Ehrenberg’s Redstart – both in GC and MC. Check also the buff tertial fringes:

Ehrenberg's Redstart, 1cy male, 23 August 2010, Jerusalem Bird Observatory, Israel. Photo by Yosef Kiat.

Ehrenberg’s Redstart, 1cy male, 23 August 2010, Jerusalem Bird Observatory, Israel. Photo by Yosef Kiat.

While an adult autumn Ehrenberg’s looks like this – much darker on the coverts, scapulars and even mantle:

Ehrenberg's Redstart, 2cy+ male, 25 August 2010, Jerusalem Bird Observatory, Israel.

Ehrenberg’s Redstart, 2cy+ male, 25 August 2010, Jerusalem Bird Observatory, Israel.

These are a couple of 1cy male Common Redstarts from autumn, again showing a nice moult limit in GC and MC:

European Common Resttart, 1cy male, Norfolk, UK, 23 September 2015. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

European Common Redstart, 1cy male, Norfolk, UK, 23 September 2015. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

European Redstart, 1cy male, Ashdod, Israel, 18 September 2013. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

European Redstart, 1cy male, Ashdod, Israel, 18 September 2013. Photo by Yoav Perlman.

Another important ID feature of Ehrenberg’s Redstart, also in 1cy males, is the shape of the white of pale buff fringes of the tertial(s). In the Faroes individual, the fringes to the longest tertial appear slightly broader at the base; not quite broadened as the sammamisicus above, but not quite even all the way to the base. In phoenicurus, if there are any pale fringes, they are even-width all along the feather or broader towards the tip. This individual seems to fall in the ‘in-between’ category – not quite there for an unequivocal sammamisicus, but quite unusual for phoenicurus.

In general, Ehrenberg’s Redstart males are greyer and darker above than Common Redstarts. The Faroes individual is grey, but not too dark admittedly. In spring sammamisicus are really dark and pretty, with more black on neck sides and upper scapulars:

Ehrenberg's Redstart, Negev, Israel, 12 March 2012. Photo by Yoav Perlman

Ehrenberg’s Redstart, Negev, Israel, 12 March 2012. Photo by Yoav Perlman

It is a pity Silas didn’t hear the bird and sound-record it. The flooty calls of Ehrenberg’s Redstart are completely different from the typical ‘huit-tek’ of Common Redstart. Does Ehrenberg’s merit a full species status? This interesting study shows no differences in mithochondrial DNA between the two taxa. However, in chats, mtDNA may not tell the ‘true’ species ‘story’. This fascinating study shows that Pied, Cyprus and Black-eared Wheatears are practically identical in their mtDNA.

I am not sure what is the status of Ehrenberg’s Redstart in NW Europe. There are several claims in the UK, but as far as I know none have been accepted yet. There are a few nominate birds, mainly in Scandinavia (?), that show an extended wing panel. What are they? I am not sure.

To my refreshed eyes, the Faroes individual does not look like the real deal. However, without sound recordings and more high-quality photos I am not sure we can understand what this bird is. In any case, this is a superb bird! Well done to Silas once again for his sharp eyes; hope next time it sticks around and ticks more boxes. Many thanks to Silas and Yosef for sharing their images with me.

Special thanks to Pepe, Björn and Yosef for feedback on this bird. Much appreciated!

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Frosty wagtail on Faroes

By Yoav Perlman

Silas Olofson, Faroe Island’s top birder, found this super-smart Yellow Wagtail at Viðareiði (northernmost village on the Faroes – how to pronounce this I have no clue) today, 27/11/16. Silas did the right thing and got many photos of it, but most importantly recorded the call on video. At first look, the initial response for this grey-and-white bird is surely ‘tschutchu!’. Also given the late date, and the incredible autumn Faroes and Silas have had, this is a reasonable assumption. But… After a closer inspection of the photos, and listening to the calls on the video, I am leaning towards Western Yellow Wagtail.

Let’s start with the calls:

There are two calls of the bird in this short video. Without doing sonograms, it sounds like a typical Western Yellow Wagtail call. No sign of the sharp Citrine-like call of tschutchunensis. I am not aware of tschutchunensis that call like westerns.

The overall impression of this bird is indeed very close to what you’d expect from a 1cy Eastern Yellow Wagtail, not dissimilar to the Scilly bird that featured recently on Birding Frontiers.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

However, I think that when checking the fine plumage details of this bird, it appears to be an extremely cold-toned Western Yellow Wagtail, maybe flava? I am not sure.

The white wingbars and tertial fringes are rather limited in this bird:

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

I am aware of the fact that this observation takes place almost two months after the Scilly bird, so I am not sure how quickly these wingbars wear off.  But still I think they are too narrow for eastern.

Light conditions were poor when Silas saw the bird, but even in the dull light, yellow tones to underparts, rather prominent yellowish fringes to secondaries, and green tones to mantle and scapulars can be seen:

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Also note that ear coverts are not dark – there is quite a prominent pale area on the frontal ear coverts, below the eye.

A supporting feature is the length of the hind claw. This bird has a ‘normal-length’ hind claw, not the monstrous hind-claw of eastern. Of course this is very difficult to judge in the field, especially from photos only like I did, but my impression is of a normal hind claw.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Western (?) Yellow Wagtail, Viðareiði, Faroe Islands, 27 November 2016. By Silas Olofson.

Well done to Silas for finding this educational bird. And many thanks for sharing the photos and images with me. I know that I put my head on the chopping block here, but I will be happy to be proved wrong – if Silas gets yet another first for Faroes! Some ‘top guns’ have already commented that it’s an eastern…

Please comment. Learning time.