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|Wednesday 9th May 2012, 17:36||#1|
Join Date: Jun 2007
Rare Bird Alert weekly round-up: 02 - 08 May 2012
From the RBA weekly round-up: 02 - 08 May 2012
The weeks highlights:
Flamborough Ficedula Flycatcher continues to perform and to baffle…
Calandra Lark takes a break with flying visit to Kent….
….and a Crested Lark behaves better two days later in the same county….
The first Black-winged Pratincole for three years appears in Cheshire
Two months on the clock for the Strathbeg Greater Yellowlegs ~ then it moves!
Despite the often grey, occasionally wet, and generally pretty cool conditions it was, all in all, a pretty entertaining week with plenty of impressive new arrivals on offer across the country.
The generally gloomy conditions came courtesy of assorted weak frontal systems coming up against the edge of a sizeable ridge of high pressure across central Europe and away in to the Mediterranean ~ no one area of weather could really outmuscle the other, so the run of rather chilly (for the time of year) N to ENE winds were generally dominant across much of the country.
New birds forced their way through, with a wide array of incomers through the week but many people could only really concentrate their efforts in trying to follow what was happening in East Yorkshire…..
The identity of the Flamborough Ficedula flycatcher (from here on in known as the “F3” ) was still at the forefront of most people’s minds this week ~ as the delightful first-summer male, of unknown parentage, continued to oblige all comers to the wooded valley at South Landing throughout the week.
Often showing well, and often showing very close to the car park, the bird just couldn’t help himself, showing off any number of field marks as he flicked and flitted just below the canopy of the newly-leafed trees ~ easy to follow as the gleaming white and deep velvet-black plumage caught the eye with every little twist and turn as he sallied here and there.
Strong cases continue to be presented by the Atlas Flycatcher camp, and equally strong arguments were thrown into the identification debating room by those adamant that the F3 was, plain and simple, nothing more than a hybrid (dad = Collared Flycatcher, mum = Pied Flycatcher the popular parentage split opinion).
With the in-hand analysis perhaps throwing up as many questions as answers (the biometrics, apparently, conclusively rule out Iberian Pied Flycatcher ~ a very significant look-a-likey to the F3) and field observations unable to add anything to the identity of the bird, it really does come down to what can be determined from the laboratory (as was touched upon in last week’s review).
The job of processing and investigating the data from the F3 has fallen to Aberdeen University’s Dr Martin Collinson ~ big-hitting geneticist and chair of the BOU. Will Doc Martin stomp his size 12’s all over the hopes of those keen to add another British first to their lists? We should know in the next few days apparently.
A trawl through some old BOU online notes on the split of Atlas Flycatcher (again touched upon last week ~ the decision to separate Atlas from Pied Flycatcher came in 2003) offered up the fact that, genetically, the “distance” between Atlas Flycatcher and both Pied and Collared is similar to that between Pied and Collared. It also states that Atlas Flycatcher is “more different” from Pied than it is Collared Flycatcher.
These stats., may be totally irrelevant if it comes back (as some wholeheartedly expect) as a Pied X Collared Flycatcher hybrid, but it will also push the I.D. envelope a little further too. It may even call in to question the identity of some of the birds seen elsewhere in Europe this spring (especially if, they too, were first-summer males and not trapped) and it may also require previous records of anything other than adult males across Europe to be reviewed too.
No such problems with the other star turns of the week ~ leading the line, a Calandra Lark at Sandwich Bay (Kent) on 5th. Seen in flight, heading towards the Golf Course this predicted vagrant (see the review from a couple of weeks ago….) will become Kent’s first record of this always mega-lark if accepted.
Britain’s first Calandra was discovered at Portland Bill in April 1961 and it was fully 17 years until the next ~ found on Fair Isle in April 1978. A further seven years followed until the first-ever twitchable individual was found (on St. Mary’s, hot on the heels of a corking male Pine Bunting) in April 1985.
All bar two of the subsequent dozen or so accepted records have come in April or May (the exceptions being birds on St. Kilda in September 1994 and at Spurn in October 2004) and Shetland leads the way with five records (four of them on Fair Isle) and its also Shetland that hosted the last two accepted records (in 2007 and 2008).
The 2012 bird appeared on Cup Final day and it continues the long-held thought that there’s always a good bird when Wembley beckons. Indeed, the last truly twitchable Calandra Lark, on the Isle of May from May 12th-17th 2006, was seen by a few boatloads of birders the day Liverpool and West Ham met on the hallowed turf.
While the Kent Calandra Lark really didn’t want to play the game and give itself up, the second mega-lark in Kent over the Bank Holiday weekend was more obliging as a Crested Lark at Dungeness on 7th performed for much of the afternoon after its lunchtime discovery.
Many birders would have caught up with the species at the same site almost exactly three years ago (from April 27th-May 4th 2009) ~ a surprising number of people missing the only other twitchable Crested Lark of recent times, at Landguard in October 1996.
There are now 21 accepted records of the species in Britain, nine of those coming before the start of the 20th century. One of those pre-1900 records was Kent’s first Crestie ~ caught at Dover in April 1879. Just under 100 years later came number two, at Dungeness in September and October 1975 and the third followed in 2009. Dungeness has now clocked up three Crested Larks, tied with Marazion Marsh (the birds there coming in 1965, 1850 and 1846).
Away from Kent, the new RSPB reserve at Burton Mere, in Cheshire, also scored big this week with another find from the top-drawer ~ Black-winged Pratincole.
Found during the evening of 3rd, the initial news was of a pratincole sp., being present, distance precluding a firm identification. As the evening wore on, the bird flew south and its identity confirmed ~ Black-winged it was.
Fortunately, the bird behaved itself and reappeared again early the next morning before heading south again before noon. Local county listers breathed a sigh of relief ~ this was only the second Cheshire record of Black-winged Pratincole, the first being a one-day bird (also on the border with Flintshire) at Inner Marsh Farm on June 2nd 1988.
This will become the 36th record of Black-winged Pratincole for Britain (34 of them have occurred since 1950, the others were recorded on Fair Isle in 1927 and the first was shot in Yorkshire in 1909).
The most recent record prior to this was of a popular, often very showy, bird that made itself known in Kent on May 10th 2009 (at Reculver) before spending a fortnight around Stodmarsh and Grove Ferry, with a visit to Elmley as it started its way north, arriving in Norfolk on May 31st. Another double figure stay (13 days) followed, the bird performing wonderfully well around Ringstead and Titchwell (becoming the fourth for the county in the process).
Before the 2009 bird, Black-winged Pratincole had become desperately rare ~ one or two birds were seen in Wales in the summer of 2001 (another photographed bird at Spurn in 2001 was never submitted) with accepted records for 2000 and 1999. But that eight year gap was the largest since the 22 year gap between birds in Mayo in 1935 and Somerset in 1957.
….and, for those of a certain age (or from certain twitching generations ~ a fabled story, it’s been handed down through the ages….), Black-winged Pratincole will always raise a smile….its 1976 and the words “Manor Farm sewage farm”, “irate farmer” and “muck-spreader” add up to the inevitable whiffy conclusion. That the angry tractor man also set fire to the nearby bank alongside the railway line (to immolate rampant twitchers in a hedge) is a subsidiary to the story that is often neglected…..
Anyway, back to the here and now ~ no smelly goings on at Loch of Strathbeg where the Greater Yellowlegs continued its lengthy stay in Aberdeenshire, completing its second month in situ on the reserve by 4th and then moved to the Ythan Estuary on 5th. It’s a funny southbound movement, of around 25 miles or so, but this bird has already produced the odd unexpected leap since its arrival last autumn.
Staying in Scotland, time to clear up last week’s report of a Scops Owl at Skye of Curr ~ all wasn’t what it seems (so it seems) ~ the record now deemed erroneous.
Much more in the full online round-up including;
- More White Stork tracking in southern England
- Gripping photos from Blakeney Point of Pallid Harrier and a male Red-breasted Flycatcher
- Details and a photo of an incredible 15 Dotterel in Surrey, the first in the county for over 125 years!
and much more besides
>>> Read the rest of the round-up here <<<
And remember the fully illustrated RBA weekly round-ups are completely free
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