Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Springo Ringo

Yesterday, I twitched a Ring Ouzel with (the kind and generous lift-offering) John Saunders (who took this photo) near Ailsworth. It was found by Matt Webb on his birthday cycle marathon bird trip and reported initially as a plain female. I've never seen a Ringo with such as poorly marked breast band, and to me it looks like a second-calendar year bird (ie first-winter/summer) rather than a clear female. It is also quite blackish and has nice silvery wings which possibly point to it being a young male rather than a young female. Incidentally, in the original uncropped photo there were 3 Wheatears, and in the field where the ouzel was there were at least 17 Wheatears!

Monday, April 15, 2013

From the Archives... No. 29

Sawfly larvae from 2005

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fiery-crested Firecrest

Found today near Haddon, by Andrew Gardener

Black-necked Grebe, foggy record shots

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Flying Water Pipit

One of at least three Water Pipits near the central drove of the Nene Washes RSPB over the weekend. Note how this bird is in a very nice spring plumage, and even though it is a ropey flight shot, you can see the bold white supercilium, the pinkish flush to the unstreaked breast and clean whitish belly and flanks and the unstreaked greyish back and even the two clean wing bars.

Digiscoped Blue Tit

Merlin sex mystery

I watched this Merlin on the Nene Washes on Saturday (6 April). When I saw it in flight, I thought it was a brown bird, but it perched on the damp grass and revealed itself to be blue-grey with red-brown fringes. Aha, thought I, this is the fringing on a young male, which would have hatched last year. Now, I'm not so sure.
One of my digiscoped photographs shows the outrspread wings and tail, confirming the golden fringed feathering and barring and the barred, rather worn tail. I put it up on Twitter as a sort of bird quiz and Katie Fuller was first to repsond that the bird was a young male Merlin, from last year's brood. She also sent me a link to a paper by Blasco-Zumeta & Heinze about Merlin ID. Intriguingly, this paper contains some photos in the hand of a Merlin labelled as a male-like female (which I had never heard of before). I took the liberty of taking some screengrabs of the pdf to embed here, so you can see what the male-like female Merlin looks like.
You can see a strong resemblance between the male-like female (top right) and the Nene Washes bird, including the rather odd blotchy underpart pattern; the overall blue-grey upperparts with browner fringing all over and no clear areas of truly adult male like blue grey (unlike the juvenile male in the centre photo). Even the central tail pattern (seen in the flight shot; though it may be the eye of faith) looks more like female than the male.
Again in these photos, from a differnt angle, the Nene Washes bird seems to most closely resemble the male-like female shown.
Finally, I repeat the flying shot, so you can compare the wing pattern with the spread wings above.
Until yesterday, I had never heard of male-like female Merlins, but now I wonder if that is what I took to be a young male on Saturday. What do you think?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Redwings in horse manure

Barn Owl, Deeping High Bank

Last week in March, 2008, I was on 125 (inc 17 'elites'). Year total: 189 (my record total)
Last week in March, 2009, I was on 131 (inc 22 'elites'). Year total: 187
Last week in March, 2010, I was on 126 (inc 15 'elites'). Year total: 177
Last week in March, 2011, I was on 130 (inc 18 'elites'). Year total: 182
Last week in March, 2012, I was on 134 (inc 21*(22) 'elites'). Year total: 183
Last week in March, 2013, I am on 128 (inc 20*(21) 'elites'). Year total: ??
 * () Modern counting with Smew as an 'elite'

Here is the traditional state of my personal PBC (Peterborough Bird Club area) year list summary, as of the end March.
Highlights of what feels like quite a productive first three months (despite awful weather), include a self-found Great White Egret, a Hawfinch for the first time since 2009, multiple Brent Geese, and an early Sandwich Tern (only the fourth time I've recorded this species), plus the sheer abundance of Waxwings. Though the overall total is relatively weak, the number of 'elite' species – species which are very scarce and unreliable annually – is good, and that is what really matters.