Thursday, October 10, 2019

Halimodead-endri? Reighton Sands Lesser Whitethroat, Oct 2019

Remarkably (and excitingly), I watched this bird drop in from out of the blue on on the 8th (48 hours ago) during an early morning vismig session on my chosen clifftop VP at Reighton Sands, on the border of the Filey and Flamborough recording areas. I was fortunate to get a series of shots as it did so, and while it flicked around for a short while in a small hawthorn. Pretty soon it flitted up and, so I thought at the time, off; not so, however, as when I returned for another session of looking up this morning, its continued presence had me looking down.

Establishing it as a blythi (Siberian) would've been great - a vismig Sibe! - but those first impressions, and photos, had me concerned: the bird looked dinky, warm brown (well beyond the nape and onto the crown), big-headed, and short-winged, and most interestingly, had what appeared to be totally white outer-tail feathers. I sent photos around various learned birder friends (thanks all for feedback), who all suggested and agreed halimodendri was indeed most likely. This morning, I spent a lot of time checking (and attempting to photograph) the bird and its various features, and with better views and photos, the alarm bells are still ringing....

Posted / discussed this with the usual caveats, most obviously the lack of bullet-proof criteria (at least presently) to nail Central Asian halimodendri in the field. However, it seems to be a good candidate, based on various features: the all-white outer-tail feathers - supposedly found only on halimodendri - being particularly compelling, along with a small-billed, large-headed, small-bodied, short-winged, long-tailed overall impression, which, while subjective and 'supporting only' as ID features, are I think pretty clearly evident on the photos. As is the warm, pale brown hue; sunshine exaggerates this of course (esp on photos), but in shade, the same impression applied. Unfortunately (and despite best efforts), the bird hasn't called; it did, however, react instantly to a playback of the halimodendri churr, and apparently ignored the playback tacks of curruca and blythi.

So here it is, for reference only, for now at least - a small, dinky, pale brown late autumn Lesser Whitethroat, with totally white outer-tail feathers and a tantalising little aura.... On present criteria I wouldn't want to call it 100% either way (unlike what I think is a bolt-on example here almost exactly three years ago - see here and here), but worth putting out there at least.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Godwit Delusion

Today was the first of many days we're surveying the waders and wildfowl of the Humber estuary this winter, of which, more to come - but for now, a few of the 4258 Black-tailed Godwits we were fortunate to share the company of....

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Reighton Sands, 8th Oct 2019 - vismig magic!

The first Ring Ouzel of the morning
Despite being in the field a great deal lately, this morning was the first time a good while I decided on a vismig session at my chosen VP of Reighton Sands - moderate south-westerlies and clearish skies after a lot of messy weather boded well for a pulse of movement overhead, and so it transpired.

One of many Skylarks
No particularly earth-shattering tallies, but a fantastic variety of species, some fine stand-out moments, a view to die for and not another human being logged in the three hours I was observing. Bliss....

Continental Song Thrush
A Lapland Bunting and two Ring Ouzels added some serious quality to the mix, but the stand-out highlight was a Lesser Whitethroat, which appeared as a dot over the bay to the north, continued on its path and then tumbled into the hawthorn on the clifftop next to me - where it flicked around nervously for a few minutes before taking flight and heading south, out of sight. A lot of photos and some hastily-scribbled field notes may or may not be enough to nail it to subspecies - but a total thrill either way.

The second Rouzel
House Sparrow - one of five high-fliers heading south
Most Skylarks called as they migrated
Common Snipe
Vismig Lesser Whitethroat! More below -

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Sweden, 2019 - With Friends Like These....

... who needs birds?

Some of the best, and least uptight, birder-ornithologists you'll ever meet
In truth, the Falsterbo Bird Show was just as much about the people (if not more so), and what a bunch of sunny souls... old and new friends and good, good times.

Identity theft
"Look, there's another hundred Red-foots"
The lighthouse garden - Sophie (centre) still its ringing custodian after many decades
Youth team 
Bjorn inspiring the next generation... over the course of the Bird Show, many hundreds of schoolkids got first-hand experience of ringing and migration  
The lighthouse garden just after dawn
Måns demonstrating the new Swarovski BinoMug

Vismigging at the lighthouse

Spouse misuse of the migration observation deck
The venue for the bird show, a stone's throw from the beach and raptors streaming over
The roof observation deck at the Bird Show
More deck misuse - although she did wake up to watch a Red-foot circle over her head for 30 seconds before nodding off again
Bjorn and daughter Louisa leading the Bird Bingo!
Part of the bird show, from the roof, before it got busy....
A spot of birding away from the crowds