Wednesday, February 29, 2012

White Stork, black tail

There's currently a White Stork at Kirkby on Bain GPs (Lincolnshire), present since 9th February and bearing a dodgy tail.

White Stork, Kirkby on Bain GPs, Lincs — © Russell Hayes

It's not something I ever recall seeing before so I searched back through the photo archives so see if I could find any similar birds; and I found this, present in East Yorkshire from 25–28 January 2012:
White Stork, Fraisthorpe, East Yorkshire — © Andy Hood

And this, present at Leven (Fife) on 14th & 15th November 2011:
White Stork, Leven (Fife) – © Jacqui Herrington

It's the same bird! Here's a map of the bird's journey:

Filling in the blanks a bit using other reports of non-photographed White Storks that likely relate to the same bird, we get this rather smart looking map:

But here's the really interesting bit. I trawled back even further and found this photo from Arne (Dorset) on 13th April 2010:
White Stork, Arne (Dorset) — © Mike Coleman

Again, it appears to be the same bird. That's interesting for two reasons. First of all... because it's the same bird! And tracking individual birds is always cool, especially when they travel the length of the country and half way back again. Secondly because it's had its dodgy tail since at least spring 2010. The excellent Grouw Dutch Birding paper (Not every white bird is an albino: sense and nonsense about colour aberrations in birds) says of partial melanism:
Partial melanism sometimes occurs but this is not caused by a mutation but by, eg, disease, mal- nutrition or lack of exposure to sunlight. If these causes are removed, normal feathers will appear during the next moult. 
White Storks appear to have a complete or near-complete post-juvnile moult from about December–May. Adults seem to have a complete moult starting in summer and finishing in winter (info from here). The photo of the bird in Dorset doesn't appear to show any active moult, nor does it appear to show any retained juvenile feathers so the bird was probably an adult (3+cy) when it was photographed then; though could it be a very early-moulting 2cy? I don't know enough about White Stork moult to be able to comment any further on that! But either way the bird should have undergone two complete (adult) moults since then, which means all of the tail feathers should have been moulted; and, taking what is said in the Dutch Birding paper, that means they should have grown back normally if the cause of the partial melanism had been removed. So, is the bird diseased (and does permanent damage to feather follicles count as disease)? Has the bird for some reason not moulted its tail feathers? Perhaps the black feathers aren't even a result of melanism at all and there's something else causing the tail to be as it is.
And most critically (I joke about the 'most critically' part, obviously), does this odd pattern detract from the odds of the bird being wild?

**Update: I've posted more on this subject here.**

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Caspian Gull... at Barnes!

It's no great secret that most of the reports of Caspian Gull I see reported from Barnes are met with an air of suspicion — I've never seen one there, there's never any photos, there's never really more than twenty or so large gulls on site and, well, I'm sure we all know the rest. So it was a pleasant surprise when I found this on the wader scrape:

A really beautiful 2cy bird.

And, interestingly, it was one of only about twenty large gulls on site — including one very cachinnans-like 4cy Herring Gull; though there were higher than normal numbers of Black-headed Gulls.

Also at Barnes today were two Shelducks, two Greylags (everyone say "woah"), 180+ Great Cormorants, some (Lesser) redpolls and what appeared to be a female Mallard x Black Duck hybrid.

She was pottering around happily with a male Mallard in the 'wild' area... though I imagine she's the product of a wandering female Mallard and a holiday romance in the Black Duck pen.

And talking of the captive pens; remember the Trumpeter Swans that were in the 'Icelandic pen'? They disappeared some time ago and the pen was left empty. They've now been replaced with... two Bewick's Swans. Equally Icelandic.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Batumi intern opportunity

It's still a good six months until Batumi Raptor Camp counting really begins but there's already things going on in preparation for the 2012 season. Things like getting someone on the ground in Georgia to ensure everything runs smoothly in the run up to the autumn. If you think you might be interested in spending six months in Georgia with the chance of doing some world-class raptor watching whilst you're there, or know someone else who might be, then do take a look at the following information regarding a BRC internship:

"The Batumi Raptor Count (BRC) seeks a motivated and passionate intern to work with BRC on developing conservation and monitoring programmes in the Republic of Georgia.  The intern will live near the Black Sea city of Batumi, capital of Ajara region, from April 16th to September/October 2012.  The intern will be required to act as the BRC’s representative “on the ground” and also assist with the organisation of monitoring, education and ecotourism work.  This is a unique opportunity to play a key part in a major conservation activity and is also an excellent chance for the intern to get experience of applied conservation work.  BRC aims to keep the costs to the volunteer low and will provide free accommodation, food, in-country transport and cover the costs of travel to and from Georgia.  
Booted Eagle
As well as organising our activities volunteers will also get the chance to participate in the 2012 autumn migration count where >80,000 raptors can be seen in a day! More details — including how to apply for the position — are available via the BRC website, or contact Danny Heptinstall"
Lesser Spotted Eagle & Steppe Buzzards

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


It's a month short of a year to the day since I arrived for the first time in Israel, at the 5th Eilat Bird Festival; and only a month until the 6th Eilat Bird Festival starts. I won't be there this year but it looks like it's gonna be one hell of a spring with the number of larks that are in south of the country this spring — see, for example, here and here.

I was mostly filming last year and I was sans telescope but I still managed to see some fantastic birds, a few of which I also managed to photograph. Eleven months later, I've finally got around to sorting through my photos — they're a mixture of phone scoped efforts using whoever's scope was nearest at the time, D-SLR photos taken with the ISO set to stupidly high and "phone camera'd" experimentation (you should be able to spot that one):
Striolated Bunting

Dead Sea

Thick-billed Lark

Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

Rock Martin

Hotel Agamim — Festival base camp

Masked Shrike

Ménétries's Warbler

White-eyed Gull

Oriental Skylark

MacQueen's Bustard

Rüppell's Warbler

k19 reservoir

Collared Pratincole

Citrine Wagtail

Cretzschmar's Bunting

Barbary Falcon

Squacco Heron

The average Israeli seems to have a high awareness of the birds in their country, more so than in many western European nations — this sign was in the departure lounge at Tel Aviv airport.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Muffin the Mule

Back in July, a hybrid Goldfinch x Canary turned up in the garden; I wondered if the bird had been colour-fed or if its Canary parent might have been a 'red' bird. Today, this appeared on the feeders:

I'm presuming it's the same bird that was here in July and, since the bird will have gone through a complete moult since last year and no longer looks so bright orange, I can only assume its bright colours were due to artificial colour feeding when it was in captivity. And if it's not the same bird as was here in July then someone needs to keep tighter hold of their mules!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

More distant geese

Pink-footed Geese at Martin Mere WWT this time.

They were all distant in the fields at the back of the reserve. The Whooper Swans were, as usual, showing slightly better:

As were the Tree Sparrows:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dodgy geese at 700 m

I was secretly hoping to find a Magnolia Warbler in a hedgerow as I wandered around Hale this afternoon. I didn't. I did however find this Greater White-fronted Goose with the Greater Canada Geese:

Also on the marsh were the two manky shelduck things. They've been around for a while now and get reported as any of the four non-Common species of shelduck depending on who sees them; but I'm pretty sure they're hybrids of one sort or another. The blotchy dark-green head of one of the birds and the pink legs make me think there's some Common Shelduck in there. As for the second parent, I guess Ruddy Shelduck or Cape Shelduck are both sensible guesses, though with the greyish head of the other bird I'd be tempted to plump for the latter.

There was also this dark and dusky-breasted looking canada goose:

Four Grey Partridges were in field by the side of the track; always nice to see. I love the almost luminous pink patch behind/below the male's eye.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

More locals

Talk of the Devil — after mentioning that the male of 'our' Robin pair had buggered off at the end of the season, guess what appeared in our garden today.  An adult Robin sporting a ring on its left leg. I haven't managed to read the ring yet but the only other Robin I've ringed on the left leg was a 1cy (by now a 2cy).  So, unless this is a bird that was ringed somewhere else, it looks like last year's pair are back together.  Interestingly, I ringed the male bird on 19th February 2011 when he was a 2cy, nearly a year ago to the day — though of course back then 'he' was still an 'it'.

Also in the garden this lunchtime were four Woodpigeon; and one of them was ringed!

I managed to read the ring number and it turns out it's the bird I ringed on 2nd July 2011. Fascinating to see it's still around. [And if you want to read about the day I first caught it, moult analysis and all, you can do so here]