Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You'll kick yourself when you find out what it was...

Remember that mystery tail feather from way-back-when, before I disappeared off?  No?  Well here it is again:

And the bird it came off...

Obviously!  I know what you're all saying—"yeah, we knew it was a first-summer female Ménétries's Warbler all along; we just didn't want to spoil the game for others".  The feather, in case anyone's interesting, I found in my bag when I was clearing it out the other week and had come all the way from Eilat; I'd completely forgotten I'd put it there.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Yesterday and this morning was spent at Portland (Dorset, not, erm, Oregon).

A bit blustery and quite quiet, though a Balearic Shearwater, a dark Arctic Skua and a handful of Manx Shearwaters past, a couple of Tree Pipits, two redpolls and some Siskins over, and a Whinchat, a Redstart and plenty of Wheatears around-and-about provided interested.  In the nets, a Pied Flycatcher and a Woodpigeon were the highlights along with some Linnets, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats, Blackcaps, a Wheatear and plenty of Dunnocks—opportunity to indulge in some more making-up-moult-limits on the latter.

First-year Dunnock.  Note the dirty ochre-olive tinge to the iris, supposedly indicative of immature Dunnocks... though later in the day I caught a bird in wing-moult (i.e. not a first-year bird) with an eye that was very similar; and speaking to a friend who's spent far too long looking at eye colour on birds in Sweden this autumn, he stated "eye-colour doesn't work on Dunnocks"—so it looks like it's back to dodgy greater covert moult limits [and A1 pattern?].

More moult. A second-year bird, I think; I'll spare you the gory details.

Pied Fly. – first-year bird (nice big step in the white at tip of the middle tertial).

And on the way out I stopped at Chesil Cove/Ferrybridge where a juvenile Little Stint was with the Ringed Plover and Dunlin.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gamarjoba, y'all

So, here I am, back from Georgia.  That's Georgia in the Caucasus and not Georgia in the USA, just in case my previous blog post confused anyone.  Plenty to tell and plenty of photos to come... I'll put a proper trip report online sometime in the not-too-distant future but, in the mean time, here's a small selection of photos.

Dining in style—the view from where we were stopping.

Suited & Booted

Red-backed Shrikes are pussies.

grey shrikes, on the other hand, aren't.

(sub)species yet to be determined...

but most likely one of these:
If you get what I mean.

Costa del Batumi—a mix of grey pebbles and plastic bottles

Though still ideal to cool off after a morning's ringing.

Hard to get a photo of anything without a Honey Buzzard ruining the shot.

Or, in this case, a whole gang of ('vulpinus') Buzzards:

Part of the raptor count's remit is to work with locals; we were always happy to let them have a look through our optics:

Levant badboi (or, in this case, badgurl).

The result of 7 days nonstop ringing/raptor watching:

With thanks to Dave Andrews and Ross Crates from whom most of the photos of myself came.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hodwy y'all

All being well, I'm speaking to you from beyond the departure lounge.  If I've timed this right, I should be just about to step onto a plane on my way to... well, I'll leave you to work it out...

See you all again in 10 days!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Everyone loves a mystery bird photo

Don't they?  Especially when it's near(?)-impossible and completely impractical ("You'd never get views of one like that in the field").  I'll give you a clue, though: the species is on the WP list.  And it's not a Mute Swan.

Answer in two weeks...

Friday, September 09, 2011

Whitethroats and white tips

Whitethroats at this time of year show nice variation in plumage.  This bird (above and below) is a 1cy that's undergone a rather limited post-juvenile moult.  All of the tertials and all bar the innermost greater coverts are juvenile.  It also shows the typically dirty outer tail feathers of immature birds, plus a dark eye giving quite a cute look.
That's the second time I've used the word cute in as many posts.  I really should stop it.

This bird, on the other hand, has undergone a rather extensive post-juvenile moult with all of the greater coverts and the small and middle tertials moulted.  Compared to the bird above and to this bird's large tertial, the adult-type tertials show a more solid dark feather centred and a more saturated feather border.

A few adults were also caught. They had all finished their moult and showed uniformly fresh plumage.

Compare the shape of the secondaries on this bird to the 1cy birds above—but note the atypical shape of S4; the middle tertial is missing.
Adults also show broad tail feathers with relatively clean white outer tail feathers and white extending onto R4.

They also showed a pale iris.

We also trapped this 1cy Nightingale, aged by the moult limit in the greater coverts—there are five retained juvenile outer greater coverts.

I have to admit that, on spring birds, I always found the moult limit in the wing quite hard to detect; and in this photo you can see why. The juvenile greater coverts show distinct paler tips; however, GC6 & 7 (the outermost adult-type greater coverts) also show what, with a bit of squinting and a pinch of imagination, could be seen as paler tips.  However, notice the colour of the feather fringes, too — more orange-brown on the juvenile feathers.

On the other wing, the bird showed an odd white tip to P8; presumably a form of extremely localised leucism.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


With 41 Curlew Sandpipers reported from Frodsham Marsh this morning, I couldn't fail to see one this afternoon... or could I?
I started with a walk from the log at No 5 to the Weaver Bend. A Wheatear and a Common Sand were the best on show.

I arrived at No 6 tank to find a Calidris-free zone. Admittedly it was now low-tide, but even so. There were, however, 115 or so Black-tailed Godwits and a further two Wheatears.

A Hobby was over No 4 bed along with at least six Common Buzzards. Also loads of Chiffchaffs all over the show and plenty of Reed Buntings.

I'm using the new Blogger composer thingy, which now has an 'easy to use' photo uploader. By default, it sticks the photo in the middle of the page; something I hate – I'd much rather have it over on the left. But setting it to left-aligned then sets the texts to run down the right hand side of the photo, which is also something I hate.  I managed to hack the html a bit in the first photo, hence it's sensible placement, but I really can't be arsed doing that for every photo. It looks like I will have to give in to centre-aligned photographs.
But anyway, I digress...

On the way back home I called in at Pickerings Pasture, a small 'community park' come nature reserve (read: open space for dog walking) on the banks of the Mersey.  By now the tide was on its way back in and many of the sandbanks were already covered with most birds distant. Four Black-tailed Godwits were about the most exciting things; also a pair of shelduck(ish) species. Presumably these are the two birds that were originally reported as Ruddy Shelducks then downgraded to South African (Cape) Shelducks. They were distant(! - see below) but looked to be there same two birds that I've seen at Frodsham on several occasions in the past. I'm no shelduck expert but it's always been my suspicion that they're hybrids, perhaps Ruddy x Paradise or something equally odd.

And just as I was leaving, this cute Ringed Plover landed on the river bank below me. It did its best to hide behind this lump of rock until the tide pushed it further up the bank.