By Yoav Perlman
Just a few weeks ago, before we all became obsessed with fancy Dunnocks, a 1cy Red-necked Stint was amazingly discovered in Norway, the first live individual identified in Europe. I am really glad that this individual sparked interest and attention in the birding community, that resulted in the next individual found, this time in Iceland. Somewhat similar story to the Norwegian find:
On October 13th one of Iceland’s top birders Gunnar Þór (Thor) Hallgrímsson went birding on his way back home at Bakkatjorn on the outskirts of Reykjavík. He spotted an interesting peep that attracted his attention. Gunnar had only bins with him, and no camera, so his views weren’t great. Based on what he expected for the time and place he identified it as the ‘default’ for this part of Europe in autumn – Semipalmated Sandpiper, as it clearly wasn’t a Little Stint nor a Western Sand. Gunnar headed back home, grabbed his camera and focused on getting some shots of the bird. He promptly alerted several local birders and sent this back-of-camera photo:
All birders who saw the first image felt something was not right for semi-p. Yann Kolbeinson from Birding Iceland immediately thought the bird could in fact be a Red-necked Stint. An initial identification discussion among the small group of local birders began. Yann quickly replied to Gunnar by text: “Please tell me you can see webs between its toes…”. Gunnar’s heart skipped a heartbeat. A few minutes later Gunnar sent through the next photo:
Obviously Yann’s jaw hit the floor. Luckily Yann had the images of the Norwegian Red-necked Stint still fresh in his mind, so he knew what to look for: the overall grey and plain appearance, small bill, long rear and round body, short legs – these features clicked. The Icelandic birders were somewhat worried about the dark ear coverts and seemingly darker markings on wing coverts, so back-of-camera images were sent to Killian Mullarney for his opinion. Killian replied quickly, and supported Red-necked Stint, but wanted to check the original images rather than back-of-camera to finalize the identification. Soon the original images were circulated and everyone agreed on the identification. Within a couple of hours after discovery, it was identified as Iceland’s first Red-necked Stint. Amazing!
Over the next few days it was seen by most Icelandic birders, including Yann who drove down from northern Iceland where he lives. As of today (18/10/16) it is still present. Here are some more photos of it. In my previous post I provided the full details for separation from Semi-p and Little Stint. Here I will just highlight the main features.
Note general structure. Long rear – like Norwegian bird primary tips not projecting beyond tail. Plump body and short legs:
Very grey and plain unmoulted coverts and lower scapulars. Coverts with hardly any pattern on them; scapulars with limited dark shaft streaks and limited dark tips:
Generally unmarked mantle pattern with limited braces:
Nice grey smudge on breast sides with indistinct streaking:
Originally I had a quick look and speculated that the icelandic bird might be the same individual as the Norwegian bird. However, Killian Mullarney did a much more thorough job than me, and they clearly are different individuals, based on differences in state of moult of scapulars and mantle feathers, and position of primary tips comapred to tail. Many thnaks to Killian for allowing me to use his annotated comparisons between the two birds:
Many thanks to Gunnar, Yann, Sigmundur and Killian for the information and photos, and congratulations for such an excellent find and identification process. Surely there are more lurking somewhere in Europe. Keep your eyes open boys and girls – now you know what to look for.