Wednesday 28 April 2010

With a wave of earlier summer migrants than normal, total for year now reaches 320 species

The total number of species recorded in combined Britain and Ireland this year has now reached 320 species, with the addition of the following 18 since my last update in mid April -:

1) BLACK STORK (single vagrants in South Devon and Somerset);

2) Eurasian Honey Buzzard (3+ - slightly earlier than usual);

3) RED-FOOTED FALCON (male in Rutland on 27 April, early individual);

4) Common Quail (2 early calling birds);

5) Spotted Crake (5+, including a twitchable bird at Slimbridge);

6) Corncrake (1 in North Wales);

7) Pectoral Sandpiper (first spring migrant in Suffolk on 27 April);

8) Wood Sandpiper (23 birds, much earlier than normal);

9) Roseate Tern (5+, including some very early migrants at Dawlish Warren);

10) Black Tern (large arrival);

11) WHISKERED TERN (long-staying twitchable bird in Cornwall);

12) Common Swift (widespread arrival, in much larger numbers earlier than normal);

13) EUROPEAN BEE-EATER (7+, including two on Mull);

14) BLACK-HEADED WAGTAIL (twitchable male in Northumberland);

15) SAVI'S WARBLER (reeling male at Marazion Marsh, Cornwall, for several days);

16) WESTERN SUBALPINE WARBLER (5+ including a twitchable male in Christchurch Harbour, Dorset);

17) Golden Oriole (early migrants)

Thursday 15 April 2010

2010 total crashes through 300 barrier

The total of confirmed species now recorded in Britain and Ireland in 2010 has now reached 302 halfway through Week 15. The new additions include -:

1) Eurasian Hobby (an excellent crop of very early migrants);

2) Little Tern (an extremely early bird in East Sussex);

3) WRYNECK (2 migrants neither twitchable);

4) Whinchat (odd early arrival);

5) Garden Warbler (20+ reported, again very early);

6) Wood Warbler (singing male in Norfolk - again very early).

Friday 2 April 2010

CANVASBACKS: a gallery of North American individuals, with comments from an observer very familiar with the species


I spend much of every fall and early winter going over photos of hummingbirds, hoping to find a vagrant among them, which I can then drive out to band. I say this just to comment that ID by photo is something that is considerably different from ID in the field. Much can be hidden, or misrepresented in photos. In the photos of the apparent Canvasback, I see a narrow sliver at the base of the bill which appears only to be on the bird's left side, but not even in every photo. So, the photos do not assure me that this is a real marking, rather than just some stray reflection or other photographic effect. Shouldn't it appear in every photo of the bird's left side?

In any case, here along the Detroit River, we get a chance to view 5-10% of the world population of Canvasbacks every fall and winter (my all-time peak count has been 28,000). I confess I don't look at them all, but do look at them a lot. I have never seen anything except a completely black bill on Canvasbacks here. I have not seen a marking such as is apparent in only one of the British photos. I don't know if this helps any, but this is my perspective from someone who sees so many Canvasbacks each year that they're often ignored in pursuit of other species.

Here is a small sample of photos, from my website: Note that a couple photos of females show a very narrow pale crescent of feathering at the base of the bill, which may or may not be analagous to what you're seeing on males...

Allen T. Chartier
Inkster, Michigan, USA

Thursday 1 April 2010

CANVASBACKS with pale on the bill

An adult drake CANVASBACK photographed in Maryland, USA, showing some paleness on the upper bill (Curtis Brant)

See putative CANVASBACK images here:

For the second year running, this drake CANVASBACK has returned to Suffolk, in East Anglia (Britain). In every sense of the word, this is a typical drake Canvasback but my main reservation is the amount of pale bluish-white half-mooning on the upper surface of the upper mandible. I have always considered this feature to be associated with in-breeding and therefore suggesting that the bird is an escape; obviously in its ancestry, there are Northern Pochard genes.

However, I am keen to hear from birders in North America with experience of wild Canvasbacks. Do you see wild birds with this same feature and if so, what proportion of birds have this feature

Of the 5 or so Canvasbacks I have seen in Europe, four of them have shown some paling on the upper bill, suggesting this may well be a frequent feature. However, on the other hand, it could suggest that the majority of our birds are escapes

I would be very grateful for any comments