Monday 30 April 2012

ATLAS PIED FLYCATCHER trapped and ringed this evening

A male ATLAS PIED FLY near Ifrane in Morocco late April (Peter Adriaens) and the Flamborough flycatcher in the hand (Andy Hood)

The bird was relocated by Phil Cunningham late afternoon and showed on and off until late evening, at which time it was trapped and ringed. It was released at dusk at South Landing. A couple of tail feathers were retained for analysis (two feathers that were dropped during the ringing process).
The bird most closely resembles an ATLAS PIED FLYCATCHER, a species of black and white flycatcher that sings and breeds in the High Atlas forests and parklands of North Africa. However, the IBERIAN PIED FLYCATCHER of coniferous forests of central Spain is extremely similar and also a possibility. It does not show any features of White-collared Flycatcher although a small percentage of European Pied/White-collared Flycatcher hybrids resemble Pieds. Martin Collinson is analysing the feathers and will report next week

The bird was released at South Landing at Flamborough Head (that is the first right just beyond the crossroads in Flamborough village). There is an obvious car park and the bird can be easily seen from the road (still present for its sixth day Thursday)
Lee Evans

UK mega: apparent ATLAS PIED FLYCATCHER in East Yorkshire

On 28 April, an apparent ATLAS PIED FLYCATCHER was photographed by Brett Richards at Flamborough Head (East Yorkshire) constituting the first record of this species in Britain. It follows an unprecedented spring displacement of the species, seeing a number of records elsewhere in Europe.

A more detailed summary of recent sightings will follow

Lee Evans

Friday 27 April 2012


I have received a very long essay from my friend and expert Spanish birder Dani Velascuo Lopez. He knows Iberian Chiffchaffs very well and has large numbers of them breeding near his home. He states that the most critical constituent is the CALL, which sadly I have not heard from the Castor Hanglands bird. He states that if this diagnostic call is not uttered by the bird, it can be instantly dismissed as not being a pure ibericus. In his experience, Iberian Chiffchaff never produces anything other than classic calls, although he acknowledges a hybrid could produce either (nobody knows the outcome of that one).

I shall summarise a few other salient points he highlights...........

Regarding the contact zone with colybitta, it is a falacy that Iberian and Common Chiffchaffs only overlap in a narrow area in the western Pyrenrees as claimed in previous peer-reviewed papers on Iberian Chiffchaff taxonomy and occurrence. COMMON CHIFFCHAFF is a widespread, though usually uncommon (being common only in localised areas), breeding species in the lowlands of Asturias and Cantabria regions of North Central Spain, thus overlapping with ibericus on an almost 300 kilometre stretch of the Cantabric coastline. Within that overlap zone, ibericus tends to be much commoner, but most importantly, both species can be found breeding at the same locations.

Dani sees many hundreds of singing ibericus in an average season in his home region so I feel that he is best placed to make informed comment on the species. The vast majority of ibericus in this region sing more or less typical ibericus song, which as I have explained previously, is quite straightforward to hear. There is quite a lot of variation though within the population, although songs will always follow the same general structuire. Almost all of the songs uttered differ slightly from each other resulting in individual singers producing constantly slightly differing versions of the song, with some easily recognisable variation between them. Sometimes, they can lack the typical ibericus trill at the end, although sooner or later, the typical trill will eventually be added. Thus, it is important to hear a single bird sing over an extended period. The somewhat Common Chiffchaff-like abstract at the beginning of ibericus song is highly variable but again, even if uttered alone, and without its trill, is still easily identifiable from collybita, being amongst other things, distinctively shorter in length and more irregular in rhythm. Those individual birds producing versions without the final trill still NEVER produce longer versions of perfect Common Chiffchaff songs and the majority will after a while sing typical ibericus songs. Summarising once more, these variant singers will still not sound like typical collybita.

In this region of overlap in northern Spain, birds singing both perfect collybita and ibericus songs are extremely rare and impossible without trapping to know wxactly what they are. Some individuals could be pure ibericus that have learnt to perfectly mimic collybita song. Others might be hybrids, as it appears that hybrids might be prone to learn both songs. Any form of mixed singing by both species of chiffchaff is rare in northern Spain so why so many are appearing further north in NW Europe is unexplainable, but perhaps the theory that hybrids are more likely to migrate could be the reason.

Regarding the physical appearance of the Castor bird, Dani states that the bird is not the most typical but could fit within the variation of that species. A small proportion of ibericus do look extremely similar in the field to some brighter collybita and are almost impossible to identify without hearing them. The strong yellow tones on the fore of the supercilium is a strong pointer towards ibericus, though the legs are noticeably dark. The yellow wash to the undertail coverts are not as bright as you would expect of an Iberian and it lacks in depth, the green component that Iberian has in the upperparts. It is very dirty white below too, which is not a good sign. Primary projection too seems slight, though the bill does look quite long, often an Iberian feature.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Dutch ringed SNOW GOOSE on ORKNEY

SNOW GOOSE details have come back for those of you who are interested in the origins of visitors to our shores (wild or feral)! The Snow Goose seen recently in ORKNEY with a darvic leg ring was ringed as a gosling in Neuss, Dusseldorf, GERMANY in June 2009 where it remained until April 2010 (amongst a flock of 70 birds)... In January, it turned up with nine others on a canal in the middle of Utrecht, NETHERLANDS where it remained for a month before next being seen a few miles north at Koehool, Friesland NL (with 83 others!). It returned to Utrecht in November 2011 (as part of a flock of 6) before next turning up on Orkney a couple of days ago. Perhaps not the real deal but, interesting nontheless.

Orkney is approx. 1000km from where this particular bird was originally reared. I wonder where it will go from here...

Alan Leitch

Monday 23 April 2012

''Not so'' Iberian Chiffchaffs in West Sussex and Cambs

Stuart Elsom obtained these excellent shots of the bird above and had already queried its identification locally.

I took the trouble to visit Castor Hanglands this morning and eventually traversed the wood and found myself in the right place. Forgive me if there has already been intense discussion on this bird on the forum but after four days without proper internet access, I am now able to post again.

I must admit to being very disappointed with the appearance of the bird but was incredibly perplexed by its repertoire. For most of the morning it sang 'perfect' note for note Iberian Chiffchaff song and then, from late morning, changed to perfectly normal and typical Common Chiffchaff song before changing to a mixed song. Like the Apuldram (West Sussex) bird, things were not quite right.

However, appearance-wise, much like the Apuldram individual, this was a non-starter for Iberian, being particularly drab, short-winged and with largely dark bare part colouration. For me, fairly typical Common Chiffchaff appearance and nothing there to suggest Iberian.

I have subsequently discussed this conundrum with a number of experienced observers and commentators and it seems that this spring's topsy-turvy weather in Iberia has held up large numbers of migrants, including chiffchaffs, and perhaps a percentage have been spending a lot of time in the company of genuine Iberians in NW Spain before migrating on further north to Britain.

Most concerning though is the Castor Hanglands ability to sing both Iberian and Common Chiffchaff songs perfectly and if submitted on vocalisation alone, there would be no doubt on sonogram evidence that this is an Iberian. Over the years, I have seen a lot of these mixed singers but never one as convincing as this. This is very vexing indeed

Lee G R Evans

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Always smiling

Alan Amery (pictured centre) with Ray Archer and others at Weir Wood Reservoir last August after twitching the Long-toed Stint there. Always such a happy man ! You will be sorely missed Alan - rest in peace

Alan’s funeral will take place at Bretby Crematorium, Bretby, Derbyshire at 2:30pm on Friday 27th April.

Topsy-turvy weather conditions

The male BLACK-WINGED STILT that was initially seen in Oxfordshire and then at Rutland Water (Leics) for one day has eventually settled in Lincolnshire, where today it is present for its fourth day at Willow Tree Fen LWT, 4 miles WSW of Spalding. The location is two miles west of Pode Hole and north of the Delph and is accessed off of the Pode Hole/Tongue End road opposite Bank House Farm. Follow the main track from the small car park to view the triangular field on the left at TF 181 213.

Meanwhile, the first BLACK-WINGED STILT to appear in Britain this spring - at Abbotsbury Swannery in the freshwater marsh just north of the reserve - is still present today (occasionally viewed distantly from the lane bordering the reserve just inland).

Yesterday morning, after an absence of several days, the apparent dark juvenile THAYER'S GULL reappeared in North Lincolnshire briefly, once again in the ploughed field with the white tanker remains at TA 043 122, east of Elsham and just over a mile NNE of Junction 5 of the M180. The bird is associating with up to 75 loafing immature Herring Gulls in the area.

In Scotland, long-staying vagrants include the GREATER YELLOWLEGS at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB (Aberdeenshire) (still viewable distantly from the Starnafin Centre) and the PECTORAL SANDPIPER in Ayrshire at Dundonald Camp, whilst WHITE-BILLED DIVERS are being seen in Portsoy Harbour (Aberdeenshire), in Gruinard Bay (Highland) off of Mellon Udrigle and off of Port Skigersta, Butt of Lewis (Outer Hebrides). At Portmahomack (Highland), both drake AMERICAN BLACK SCOTER and SURF SCOTER are offshore.

The ringed male LITTLE BUNTING continues to visit the feeding station by the Water Treatment Works (SX 686 423) at South Milton Ley (South Devon), whilst on the Isles of Scilly, the NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH incredulously continues on Lower Moors, St Mary's.

A few Spanish GLOSSY IBISES are still to be found including an adult in the extreme north on North Uist (Outer Hebrides), at Loch a Roe at Aird an Runair, Balranald RSPB, as well as 3 at Marloes Mere (Pembrokeshire) and singles at Saltholme Pools (Cleveland) and Arnside Flash (Lancs), whilst relatively close to the North Uist bird is a COMMON CRANE on the machair between Bornish and Ormiclate on South Uist. A further COMMON CRANE, an adult, can still be seen from the canal towpath south of Meadow Bridge at Radford Meadows SWT in Staffordshire.

A drake North American Green-winged Teal was new in at Chew Valley Lake (Avon) (visible from the Bernard King Hide) whilst on Herriott's Pool there, the winter-plumaged adult SPOTTED SANDPIPER continues. Not that far away, the two first-winter LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS continue to frequent the drained basin of Meare Heath, 350 yards west of Ashcott Corner car park at Shapwick Heath NNR (Somerset). The long-staying drake RING-NECKED DUCK remains on Stithians Reservoir (Cornwall)

A HOOPOE was seen on Sandwich Bay Estate (Kent), with a WHITE STORK nearby over Grove Ferry NNR, Stodmarsh late evening, whilst a WRYNECK was at Carn (Gloucs).

The topsy-turvy, very blustery and very wet weather conditions have displaced numerous Sandwich Terns, Arctic Terns and Little Gulls and the odd Black Tern, Little Tern and Kittiwake inland. A GREAT NORTHERN DIVER remains inland at Carsington Water (Derbyshire), as does a transitional-plumaged SLAVONIAN GREBE in the SE corner of Stewartby Lake (Beds), whilst RED-NECKED GREBES remain at Alton Water (Suffolk) (from Lemons Hill Bridge) and on Hatfield Moors (South Yorks). The freak conditions also saw huge numbers of PALE-BELLIED BRENT GEESE moving west along the South Coast, including over 100 past West Bexington (Dorset) and Beer (Devon) during the morning..

Little recent news from IRELAND but the long-staying first-summer PURPLE HERON remains Bunmahon in County Waterford.

Many thanks for posting the very sad news. As you so rightly said, Alan was one of life's real gentleman. I remember on my first visit to Scilly in the 1980's joining Alan and Bernard Bond as they showed me some sites on St.Marys. I also had the pleasure (in panic-mode at the time) of getting him onto the first Fea's which went past Bridges of Ross in August 2007 with Barry Reed, Neil Bostock and Richard Webb also present. He was ecstatic as he finally got it in his scope!

A warm-hearted man. My condolences go to his family.

Stuart Elsom

Tuesday 17 April 2012

ALAN AMERY - a true birding gent

Christine phoned me with this devastating news last night. Alan & Christine joined me on a number of birdwatching tours all over the world and were always the best of company amd enjoyed their birding to the maximum. Alan always saw the positive in everything (and everyone) in life and whenever he saw a new bird his excitement was contagious. Alan was one of life's true gentlemen and he will be greatly missed. Everyone at Birdfinders would like to extend their condolences to Christine and the family at this very difficult time (Vaughan Ashby)

Incredulous devastating news - ALAN AMERY has died

It is with great sadness that I have to report the really devastating news that ALAN AMERY of Derbyshire (and more latterly of East Yorkshire) died suddenly on Sunday afternoon, after being very recently diagnosed of suffering from liver cancer.

Alan was truly one of birding's gentlemen, with not a bad word to say about anyone and was one of my association's greatest supporters. I had known him and his wife Christine and their two sons (Lee of course being also a very keen birder) for a very long time and I considered Alan one of my closest and most cherished birding pals. Carmel and I had spent some fantastic foreign holidays with Christine and Alan and I was always very impressed with Alan's enthusiasm and keenness to learn. He was just so friendly, kind, placid and gentle, and was always incredibly jovial and cheerful

Since his retirement only relatively recently, he had increasingly spent time (virtually every weekend) at Spurn Point, where Christine and he had invested in a caravan adjacent to Beacon Lane, and I remember receiving a particularly excited (and rather anxious) phone call from him just last autumn, after he had watched a Black-browed Albatross fly north past the hide there

I find it hard to believe that I am never going to see his cheery face again. I will miss him so much

My thoughts are with Christine, Lee and Andrew at this unbearable time. I know many hundreds of you knew Alan and if you would like to send your condolences, the address is 63 Ashfield Drive, Moira, Swadlincote, Derbyshire, DE12 6HG. I will email details of the funeral arrangements as and when I hear of them

Lee Evans

Tuesday 10 April 2012

The North Lincolnshire ''Thayer's Gull''

Graham Catley has done exceptionally well in obtaining a large selection of photographs of the juvenile High Arctic gull in his region, many more being available on his brilliant 'pewit' birding website.

The bird has been present for over a week now NE of Brigg and east of Elsham and SW of Middleton Road west of the A15 (at approximately TA 843 122). It reappeared today after disappearing over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. It's identification remains tentative but it does 'tick all of the boxes' with what we have previously accepted as dark Thayer's Gull.

Monday 9 April 2012

A typical juvenile THAYER'S GULL

With another Thayer's Gull lookalike recently in the UK (this time in North Lincolnshire), Steve Mlodinow has very kindly sent me a photograph of what he considers to be a typical juvenile.

Although the Lincolnshire juvenile 'looks the part', the size and structure of the bird, the size and length of the bill and the coarseness patterning of the plumage are more than worrying and perhaps suggest influence from elsewhere.

Stranded FULMARS

Following some strong NE winds and a belt of heavy snow in the north of England and Scotland on Thursday 05 April, at least 5 NORTHERN FULMARS flew in front of the weather and became stranded inland. It included this individual at Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, constituring only the 7th ever record and my first HERTFORDSHIRE sighting. Allan Stewart and I retrieved it from the water after it became moribund and took it to St Tiggywinkle's in Aylesbury where it is now recovering well, alongside another bird found exhausted in Buckinghamshire