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Saturday, 31 October 2009

SWAINSON'S THRUSH in County Cork

A first-winter SWAINSON'S THRUSH was present all day at the Old Head of Kinsale (County Cork) showing well in and around the hedgerow bordering the gardens just north of the main plantation

Yet another new species for 2009 for the combined Britain and Ireland list

GREENISH WARBLER it is - on call - but not in field characters

I, along with 250 others, made the journey down to Church Cove on The Lizard today. Both Alan Lewis and Ilya Maclean obtained good sound recordings of the bird before I arrived on site at 0715 hours and after listening to Alan's tape, I could hear that the bird was clearly making a short, quick disyllabic note, repeated quickly in succession.

The bird was showing from the minute I arrived on site, flicking quickly through the Sycamores adjacent to the car park, often in accompaniment of a single Scandinavian Chiffchaff, two Common Chiffchaffs and occasionally a Pied Flycatcher and a YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER.

I must stress that the bird met all of my expectations and after obtaining numerous good views, both with 'bins and prolonged views in the 'scope, both high in the canopy and low down in the vegetation, I became convinced that the bird was a BRIGHT-GREEN WARBLER. Several photographers were able to get good images of the bird as it fed, including both Jim Lawrence and Steve Rogers, allowing us to carefully assess the bird's features. Ian Wilson (Kester's father) also showed me what he had managed to gather on film over a number of days visiting the site.

I was most overawed by the bird's structure, with a somewhat long primary and a thick-set, long bill, distinctly yellowish-orange on the lower mandible. It gave me the feel of a Wood Warbler at times and did not have the agility and stance I often associate with Greenish Warbler. Furthermore, on a prolonged view from above, the upperparts were a very distinct green and not the greyish-olive of usual autumn viridanus. There was a distinct yellowish wash to the supercilium, which flared up prominently behind the eye and petered out in front of the eye. The dark line below the stripe also failed to stretch to the lores with the eye-stripes not encroaching or meeting on the forehead. The bird was very dingy on the underparts and not the silky-white one expects of Greenish and had a faint yellow wash to the ear-coverts, sides of throat and neck and on the leading edge of the flanks. The yellow did not however appear to be on the chin and throat, perhaps a significant feature. The distinct green colouring of the mantle and back was also apparent on the upperwings, with both sides of the bird bearing a broad, yellowish-tinged greater-covert bar, whilst one wing had a peppering of pale tippings to the median coverts. Comparing the bird's appearance with that of Dan Zetterstrom's artwork and a selection of Bright-Green Warbler photographs I had bought to the site, I was convinced that the bird was nitidus but at the same time, realised that the only call note the bird was repeating was that of a fairly typical viridanus - and at all times, the tri-syllabic contact note was not being uttered. Keith Vinicombe, Jim Lawrence, David & John Cooper, Bob Arnfield and many others agreed and after several hours of study (the bird was showing almost non-stop during the morning), departed the site around midday.

In the meantime, Ilya Maclean had very sensibly uploaded his MP3 recording of the Church Cove bird on the internet and had solicited response. Sound engineer and bird vocabulary expert Magnus Robb was quick to respond, declaring the calls typical GREENISH WARBLER. I must admit that I had fully expected such a response but still remained totally perplexed by the bird's appearance. I later contacted Magnus with some queries and he very kindly responded with the following -:

''Hi Lee, I'm in the luxurious position of not knowing much about the finer plumage points of Greenish and Bright Green Warblers, so for me the call identifies the bird 100% safely and securely! What I can tell you, is that all populations of viridanus known to me, at least as far as southeastern Kazakhstan, call like this. I don't know whether there is a cline in plumage towards the east as I do not have any recordings of Greenish Warblers from the Himalayas, China etc, cheers, Magnus''

I am not in the position to be able to argue with Magnus and fully accept his synopsis and expertise in this field. What I cannot tell is whether this Greenish Warbler, being such a late autumn migrant, is not from a population much further east than normal. What this whole chapter has proved once again is just how limited our knowledge is and how much more there is still to learn - this individual bird is an extremely educational bird and, just like the Staines Moor first-winter Brown Shrike, filling yet another major flaw and gap in our knowledge. Chris Heard had already commented to me that he was worried about certain aspects of Martin Elliott's field sketch and notes and it seems his concerns were well justified.

To make sure that this record is kept at the forefront of our knowledge, I would urge all of you today to email me your excellent images so that I can place for posterity a complete record of this bird and it can be used as a reference for future claims.

I would very much like to thank the large number of you that have got involved in the detailed discussion of this bird and have provided the wealth of material and information that has allowed it possible to come to a conclusion, especially the finders, the Cornish birders and of course Magnus and Ilya.

Friday, 30 October 2009

More BRIGHT GREEN WARBLERS photographed in Goa




Steve Morgan photographed this fairly typical and very yellow BRIGHT-GREEN WARBLER in Goa in November 2008

More on BRIGHT GREEN WARBLER identification concentrating on drab birds








John Martin very kindly emailed me his image of the Church Cove Phyllosc (see top - taken on Thursday afternoon in reasonable light conditions) whilst Mark Newsome emailed some Bright Green Warbler images taken in Goa (India) on 12 November 2008 for comparison.

The BRIGHT GREEN WARBLER Phylloscopus nitidus of western EASTERN TURKEY

This is a summary of an identification paper published by J.S.M. Albrecht in Sandgrouse 4: 69-75 entitled ''Some notes on the identification, song and habitat of the Green Warbler in the western Black Sea coastlands of Turkey''

Albrecht found that in 1972-1978 at least, Bright-Green Warbler occurred in western Turkey some 700 kms further west of previously reported locations. For example, in May-June 1978, at least four singing males were seen in mixed forest at about 1,500 m in the western Pontic Mountains south of Duzce, whilst Mark Beaman and Iain Robertson saw at least six singing males in this area and a further six in Beech and other mixed woodland on the slopes above the road between Bolu and Abant Golu, 30 kms from Duzce.

Most interesting with regards to this population was that they did not conform to the general appearance of birds commonly encountered in the Sivri Kaya region and at Sumela Monastery. In the Duzce birds, the upper parts (that is the crown, nape, back and upperwing surfaces) were grey-green, with a single pale wing bar on the greater coverts. The supercilium, throat and breast were pale yellow to greyish-white depending on the light conditions. The remainder of the underparts were pale. The bill was horn and the gape yellow and the legs were dark. In general the birds were neither very yellow nor very green and resembled more the colour of Greenish Warbler than of Green Warbler but Mark Beaman did note one very yellow bird within the singing population.

The vocalisations of Green Warbler are hard to describe but the 1978 Duzce birds uttered a di-syllabic ''Tss-eurp'' contact note whilst the somewhat Wren-like song was transcribed ''chewee chewee chewee chewee chui chui chui chui'' - identical to that of birds in the Sivri Kaya firwoods.

British Museum skins of Two-barred Greenish Warbler are fairly distinct having a greyish-olive back and off-white underparts with very little or no yellow. Green and Greenish Warblers have olive green upperparts with Green Warbler having a yellow green and Greenish Warbler having a greyish-green back on average but there is some overlap. Similarly, Green Warbler generally has more yellow than Greenish on the breast and belly but there is considerable overlap. In conclusion, the difference between the museum skins of Green and Greenish Warblers is far less clear cut than what the literature often states.

Subsequent studies of Green Warblers in Eastern Turkey, contrary to much of what is published, has proven that many Green Warblers are very dull and look very much like Greenish Warblers and often possess very little yellow on the underparts (Beaman, Porter, Kitson, Evans, et al). A similar situation exists in the Caucasus Mountains in Armenia and Georgia where many of the singing Green Warblers in spring are dull with a faint wash of yellow which closely resembles Greenish Warbler. But, while the plumage is very similar, the song is very different from that of Greenish Warbler in the Moscow area (Steve Madge). In southern India in spring, Richard Grimmett found a complete range from obvious Green through some birds that were impossible to identify.

Apparent BRIGHT GREEN WARBLER still present

The probable BRIGHT-GREEN WARBLER is still present in Church Cove on The Lizard (West Cornwall) this morning. Identification has been confused by the mixed messages coming out from the site.

I believe that there is now a very strong possibility that this bird actually IS a Green Warbler, mainly due to its yellowish tones to the throat, chin, supercilium, ear-coverts and face, its obviously longer and stouter bill, very prominent, broad, single bright wingbar and primary projection. It is not an obvious individual by any stretch of the imagination but a very subtle one.

I am afraid I cannot offer any firmer position that that and appreciate the fact that this bird is a long journey for anyone contemplating seeing it. Identification of birds from the western part of the natural range can be very problematical (per Arnoud van den Berg).

What will be essential in perhaps sorting this is getting hold of a recording of its call. Magnus Robb will certainly be in a position to identify it with a recording. To the human ear, the calls of both species are virtually inseparable (Lee Evans)

Thursday, 29 October 2009

.......And video footage of the Kerry NIGHTHAWK release

Some footage of the release at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEAAGKjx-fQ

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The first-winter COMMON NIGHTHAWK picked up exhausted in County Kerry this past weekend






















Michael O'Keefe emailed me these fabulous images of the Kerry COMMON NIGHTHAWK that was picked up exhausted in poor weather conditions on Saturday morning. It was rehabilitated overnight and released next day and present for about ten minutes after release before disappearing

Fourth GREEN WARBLER for ISRAEL - beautifully photographed by Yoav Perlman










On 14 October 2009, ISRAEL recorded its fourth-ever GREEN WARBLER - an individual trapped and ringed (see Yoav Perlman's superb in-hand images at http://nubijar.blogspot.com/2009/10/green-warbler.html and those published above).

Note how similar to Willow Warbler this species can be in autumn

Probable BRIGHT GREEN WARBLER and BLACK-THROATED THRUSH in the Southwest




A probable BRIGHT GREEN WARBLER (Phylloscopus nitidus) is present in Church Cove on The Lizard (West Cornwall) today, showing intermittently in Elms at the seaward end of the cove opposite the Mariner's Cottage. It was found by Cambridgeshire artist Ben Green and Duncan Poyser late morning and showed again for 20 minutes early afternoon and again briefly to seven observers at 1645. It is calling quite often, is very yellow on the throat, on the face and in the supercilium but only has a faint single yellowish wingbar.

There is only one previous record of a definite BRIGHT GREEN WARBLER in Britain - a very yellow on the underparts first-winter that remained on The Garrison, St Mary's (Scilly) from 26 September until 4 October 1983 (and certainly not on Bryher as published erroneously in Russell Slack's new book). This bird showed well occasionally but was generally very elusive, frequenting the tall pines visible from the lower Garrison walls.

Also in the Southwest, the first BLACK-THROATED THRUSH for Devon involves a splendid first-winter male that has been showing well this afternoon in Rowan trees on Dartmoor at Scorriton Deer Park. The bird is present for its second day and was seen by just ten people and is associating with three Ring Ouzels (John Walters - finder, Mark & Bob Bailey, Mike Langman, Mark Darlaston, Pat Mayer, Andy Trout, Dave Stone, Ken Montanden and Andrew Cunningham). Park by the ' The Traveller's Arms' public house in Scorriton village and walk uphill west for 2.5 miles along the lane to the Deer Park. Turn right at the end of the lane at the metal gates into the Deer Park and continue for a further mile to the far end of the park and from the metal gate walk 400 yards up the valley and view the Rowan tree towards the River Mardle at SX 677 686 on Dartmoor itself. Be warned - it takes at least an hour to walk to the site. DO NOT APPROACH THE TREE CLOSER THAN 70 YARDS - the bird will not come in if birders are standing too close to the tree. The record shot above was taken by Dave Stone.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Shaping up for yet another record year - those megas just keep on coming. IRELAND once again enters the fray

































































































































































































































Plates 1-3: first-winter female RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL at Bempton RSPB, East Yorks, 23-25 October (Mark Stirland)
Plates 4-6: RADDE'S WARBLER trapped at Kew Villa, Kilnsea, East Yorks, October (Ray Scally)
Plates 7-8: first-winter female PIED WHEATEAR at Shingle Street, Suffolk, 16 October (James Kennerley)
Plates 9-10: first-winter female pIED WHEATEAR, Horsey Gap, Norfolk, 14-15 October (Peter Beesley)
Plates 11-13: drake LESSER SCAUP at Draycote Water, Warks, October (Dave Hutton)
Plates 14-18: first-winter GLOSSY IBIS at Strathbeg RSPB, Aberdeenshire, October (Jim Duncan)
Plates 15-17: EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER in Trow Quarry, South Shields, 23-24 October (Tom Tams)

Well those mega-rare vagrants continue to appear and this weekend it was the turn of IRELAND to steal the show, with first-time appearances in 2009 of a first-winter COMMON NIGHTHAWK in County Kerry (picked up exhausted in Caherciveen on Saturday night, rehabilitated overnight in a veterinary centre and released in suitable habitat on Sunday morning, where it showed on and off for a short while ande was last seen hawking over a wooded garden) and a NORTH AMERICAN MOURNING DOVE in County Cork (at Garinish Point for just over an hour) (news by kind courtesy of Eric Dempsey and BINS).

For us in Britain, Sunday (25 October) saw 500 or more observers gathered at Trow Quarry, South Shields (South Tyneside) where the first-ever EASTERN-CROWNED WARBLER had departed overnight. One intrepid twitcher had reportedly flown in from the Azores after having cut short his visit to the 53rd state!

Highlights today include the following -:

A first-winter RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL which had initially been trapped and ringed at Spurn Point (East Yorkshire) on 18 October reappeared today in the Heligoland Trap there and had not been seen in the interim period. Meanwhile, the 66th individual to reach Britain involved a first-winter at Bempton Cliffs RSPB (East Yorks) from 23-25 October (see images above). The third first-winter PIED WHEATEAR of the autumn involved a bird on the beach by the golf course at Fife Ness (Fife) this afternoon.

Other Siberian/Scandinavian scarcities left over from last week's arrival included a BARRED WARBLER on Holy Island (Northumberland), a juvenile RED-BACKED SHRIKE at Bempton Cliffs RSPB (East Yorks) and several Siberian Chiffchaffs and Yellow-browed Warblers. A RICHARD'S PIPIT was in rough grass by Soldier's Point breakwater on Anglesey, with another over Skomer Island (Pembs).

We are still to receive a major arrival of PALLAS'S LEAF WARBLERS this autumn and the only birds today were singles at Balcomie Castle Wood (Fife), Denburn Wood, Crail (Fife) and in the hedgerow by Cliff Cottages near Hopton-on-Sea (Norfolk) whilst a RADDE'S WARBLER at St Levan (Cornwall) was yet another late example of this species and still well outnumbering Dusky Warblers thus far. A ringed RADDE'S WARBLER also remains at Fife Ness Muir (Fife) (along with a Siberian Chiffchaff, 2 Firecrests and a Lesser Whitethroat) with another reported in Wells Woods (Norfolk), whilst an OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT was in gardens near the small quarry at Levenwick (Shetland). A WOODLARK on Fair Isle (Shetland) is a rare vagrant there.

In Middlesex, the long-staying first-winter BROWN SHRIKE continues its residency at Staines Moor, favouring the bushes and scrub at the extreme north end of the site, whilst an equally long-staying WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER remains at the Calf of Man Bird Observatory (Isle of Man)

A first-winter GLOSSY IBIS continues to show very well in the damp field by the B9033 near Strathbeg RSPB (Aberdeenshire) whilst three first-winters were again reported in Somerset at Meare Heath and at least one was still roaming the Dungeness area (East Kent).The last of three different first-winters to recently visit Fisher's Mill Pit at Middleton Lakes RSPB (Warks) was still present this afternoon.

A late WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER spent a second day commuting and feeding between Arnold's Marsh and Pat's Pool, Cley NWT (Norfolk) with a drake American Green-winged Teal on neighbouring Simmond's Scrape.

A juvenile SABINE'S GULL was hardly compensation for the ECW but did attract a succession of admirer's yesterday afternoon and was still present on the River Tyne at North Shields Fish Quay (Tyneside) today

The Isles of Scilly's attempt to steal back the spotlight came forth with a late first-winter CITRINE WAGTAIL on Tresco, showing well on mud in the NW corner of the Great Pool (second day), but left-overs from the archipelago's worst-ever autumn showing in perhaps 40 years included a juvenile ROSE-COLOURED STARLING on St Agnes, a LITTLE BUNTING in the infamous quinoa field by Tresco Great Pool and 5-6 Yellow-browed Warblers scattered about the islands.

In what has been the best year ever for GREAT WHITE EGRETS in Britain, birds today included an unringed bird at Meadow Lake, Testwood HWT (Hants), the long-staying individual on West Marsh, Humphrey Head (Cumbria), two at Leighton Moss RSPB (Lancs), one at Lakenheath Fen RSPB (Suffolk), the adult ranging between Meare Heath and Noah's Lake, Shapwick Heath RSPB (Somerset) and that at Denge Marsh (Kent)..A single juvenile EURASIAN SPOONBILL remains on the Hayle Estuary off Lelant Saltings (Cornwall)

CATTLE EGRETS are again in vogue with one this morning (presumably the recent Scilly bird) on the Hayle Estuary (Cornwall) briefly, a 'new' arrival on Islay (Argyll) in fields NE of Eorrabus Farm, Bridgend, one all day yesterday at Carr Vale NR, Bolsover (Derbyshire), three at Noah's Lake, Shapwick (Somerset), two still at Keyhaven Marshes (Hants) and the long-staying bird at Denge Marsh (Kent).

In Lothian, the adult LESSER YELLOWLEGS remains with wintering Common Redshanks at Aberlady Bay, whilst on the Outer Hebrides, a first-winter LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER is at Baleshare on North Uist.

SHORE LARKS remain at Holkham Gap (Norfolk) and at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Links (Suffolk) whilst the only BOHEMIAN WAXWING around is a bird present for several days at Tolsta Head, Lewis (Outer Hebrides).

Southeasterly winds heralded a major arrival of FIRECRESTS on the south and east coasts and a EUROPEAN SERIN at Land's End (Cornwall).

A drake Ring-necked Duck appeared at Kirkby-on-Bain GP (Lincs) with wintering individuals at Westport Lake (Staffs) and at Foxcote Reservoir, Buckingham (North Bucks). Another is at Blagdon Lake (Somerset) and the first-winter drake LESSER SCAUP at Draycote Water (Warks).

Two RED-BREASTED GEESE appeared with Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Old Hall Marshes RSPB (Essex) yesterday afternoon with a further two on the CHANNEL ISLANDS at St Ouen's Pond on Jersey.

There was no sign today of the partially oiled adult RED-THROATED DIVER in Chelmsford's town centre Central Park (Essex) nor of the juvenile BLACK-THROATED DIVER at Branston GP (Staffs) but a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER appeared just south of Hill Farm car park at Grafham Water (Cambs).

IRELAND today yielded a first-winter RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER in Sycamores at Carne Beach (Co. Wexford), a further RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER and a RICHARD'S PIPIT on Cape Clear Island (Co. Cork), a GREATER SHORT-TOED LARK on West Town Beach on Tory Island (Co. Donegal) (with the SNOWY OWL still present there by the lighthouse), a BARRED WARBLER at Power Head (Co. Cork)

A long-staying juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER remains at Muckross mudflats in Inchydoney Bay (Co. Cork) with a EURASIAN/AMERICAN BITTERN seen in flight west of Lingstown at Tacumshin (Co. Wexford).

Saturday, 24 October 2009

A panoramic view of the Trow Quarry - Josh Jones


Wow - what a bird and what an image


Here is my best shot Lee of the Trow Quarry EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER. This was taken when the bird was chased out of the sycamores by a Robin and into an even smaller clump of trees to the right of the crowd looking into the quarry from below. It only stayed there about one minute before flying back to the safety of the bigger trees (Jim Lawrence).

More on the EASTERN CROWNED - crowd shots and more of the vireo-like sprite
















Nick Smith (top two images) has provided us with an illustration of the location (small group of about 15 short Sycamores and some mixed Ash and Elder trees and scrub inside the Trow Quarry just 50 yards in from the South Tyneside coastline) and a fraction of the 700 birders that visited on Friday; Mike King has sent a crowd picture from early this Saturday morning and Stevie Nuttall from Belvide has sent some slightly more detailed shots of the EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER itself

EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER present for a third day





































The EASTERN CROWNED WARBLER remains today in Trow Quarry, South Shields (South Tyneside) delighting a further 1,100+ observers who were unable to get to the site before it roosted at 1540 hours yesterday.
It is still in the same small area of Sycamores, Ash and Elder trees in the small quarry showing fairly frequently often with the Yellow-browed Warbler and the two migrant Blackcaps.
Just under 700 observers made it on the Friday, the bird often appearing quite 'Red-eyed Vireo-like' in appearance. Mark Stirland obtained the selection of record images above but if you have better, I should very much like to receive them. Also any images depicting the crowd.
This is the FIFTH record for the Western Palearctic following singles in GERMANY (Heligoland on 4 October 1843), NORWAY (trapped and ringed at Jaeren, Rogaland, on 30 September 2002), FINLAND (at Harrbada, Kokkola, on 23 October 2004 and in THE NETHERLANDS (at Katwijk aan Zee, Zuid-Holland, on 5 October 2007).