Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Israel, March '18 - Yellow-stoned

xanthophrys‘ / ‘superciliaris‘ Yellow Wagtail, K20, Eilat, 20th March 2018. This bird was one of at least three black-headed-yellow-super'ed males, colloquially known as xanthophrys‘ / ‘superciliaris‘ due to (apparently) fairly stable morphological forms, present within a flock of more than a hundred flavas on the bank of the saltpans. Superficially similar to the eastern 'Green-headed' taivana form, there are several obvious differences, as detailed by Yoav here: .

If you like your Yellow Wagtails nice and clean and easy, look away now; but if you like 'em vibrant, messy and fascinating, dip your bread in. As with last year, I was easily sidetracked by the beauty, abundance and variety of the Flavas passing through various sites in southern Israel, a mesmerising kaliedoscope of neon yellows, greens, blues and blacks. But as expected, there were more questions than answers regarding subspecific pigeon-holing, and plenty to chin-scratch over while admiring these trans-Saharan pin-ups.......

xanthophrys‘ / ‘superciliaris‘ Yellow Wagtail, K20, Eilat, 20th March 2018 (same bird as above). 'Classic' superciliaris‘, an apparently commoner form with a white supercilium, were not noted. 

'dombrowski' (?) type Yellow Wagtail, K20, Eilat, Israel - 20th March 2018. 'dombrowski', another apparently stable mix-type (this one breeds in Romania), is supposed to look like a dark-headed/white supered flava, but to me looks more like an eye-browed/tear-dropped thunbergi. If that's what this is, which it probably isn't.

Fairly standard Blue-headed (ssp. flava) Yellow Wagtail, K20, Eilat, Israel - 20th March 2018. 'Fairly' standard, as in, showing hints of yellow in the face and supercilium - as many of them did out in Israel, and as many of those that I've been able to study close-up in the UK do, too. Discuss.

Same bird as above

Yellow Wagtail, site and date as above. I wonder what'd be made of this at a glance in the UK - Thunbergi? Feldegg hybrid? Glad I don't have to judge...

Yellow Wagtail, The Canal, Eilat, Israel - 21st March 2018. An interesting bird which superficially resembles beema (and probably would've been claimed as such historically in the UK), but which doesn't fit the accepted criteria re: head colour, ear-covert patch etc. Bit like a 'Channel Wagtail' (flava x flavissima) eh, British birders? It did, however, give a cracking, harsh, clearly 'eastern-type' call.... 

Same bird as above

Yellow Wagtail, Neot Smadar, 20th March 2018. Ah, a nice classic Black-headed feldegg, right? Wrong! Not only would this bird be rejected as such in the UK due to the paler feathering in the hood (a trait shown by the vast majority of 'Black-headed' Wagtails here), it also called three times - each time a nice, sweet, flava-type call. Ouch.

Same bird as above

A bit easier (and a perfect example of why bird names should always be capitalised!): a lovely yellow wagtail - not a lovely Yellow Wagtail - at the IBRCE, in fact a very accommodating female Citrine Wagtail. Would be made very welcome at East Lea, Filey in the next few weeks.

Citrine Wagtail, IBRCE, 26th March 2018.