Rare Bird Alert weekly round-up: 30 Jan - 05 Feb
Artiklen er tilføjet af MBH torsdag 7. februar 2013 kl. 09.06. Læst 1413 gange
The week's highlights:
Shetland shakes it all up with the first Pine Grosbeak in eight years
Black-browed Albatross heads past the coast of Clare
Juvenile American Herring Gull found in County Cork
…and a curious (or is it?) juvenile Glaucous-winged Gull type is found in Kerry
American Buff-bellied Pipit makes one-day reappearance in Berkshire
First-winter American Coot still in Galway
Juvenile female Northern Harrier remains in Wexford
A real mixed bag of weather this week after all the cold ~ rain, gales, more chilly winds and a bit more snow to boot. And things seem to be getting a little chillier again as the round up period draws to a close.
…the early-in-the-week Atlantic Ocean blast stirred things up and left a few new visitors here for birders to get stuck in to and there are hopes that the forecast Arctic air that’s forecast may yield something exciting too.
Will anything be able to match this week’s big bird though? It’ll have to be pretty special…..
So. You couldn’t script it ANY better than this….
For several weeks in a row, as you’d sort of expect for the time of year I guess, the bird news has been a little bit on the samey side. The chilly, snowy fortnight of a couple of weeks ago yielded nothing (despite hopes being high off a wayward drifter coming our way from a colder continent) and as the weather (temporarily it seems) adopted an altogether milder, if rather windy, outlook, readers of this review had to endure a week or two (or three) of pretty much carbon copy bird news ~ and some David Byrne lyrics too.
A change was always going to come (we knew it would right?) but the bird that awoke us from our slumbers was almost another of those classic “ones that got away” scenarios before we even knew it…
….so, answering the call to get the change underway, blowing away those mid-winter blues in one enormo-rare fell swoop whilst breaking that “same old, same old” feel came a Pine Grosbeak ~ fittingly reappearing on the day that Punxatawney Phil emerged from his burrow (February 2nd). Whatever Phil’s shadow (or lack of it) said, there is absolutely no danger of any Groundhog Day mullarkey with our top birds this week, no sirree bob….
…but it could have been so different….
Here’s how it all unfolded…..
On the morning of February 1st, once the white rabbits had been pinched and punched, amazing news came out of Shetland…a first-winter male (or female) Pine Grosbeak had been photographed at North Collafirth, on Mainland but the bird had actually been seen a few days earlier, on January 29th.
Local resident Bert Ratter and former work colleague, and birder, Paul Sclater take up the story…..a rather modest Bert’s up first…
I'm afraid it's not much of a story really. I just happened to see the bird in one of my trees as I was looking out for the school bus while the kids were getting ready for school. I knew I hadn't seen it before but just thought it was some sort of finch. It seemed to be staying still for a bit so I went and got the camera. I only have a very basic British birds book so when I didn't find it in there I emailed some pictures to Paul Sclater, a friend I used to work with, as I was sure he would know what it was. I wasn't expecting to find out it was such a rare visitor. It was probably in and around the tree in the pictures for five to ten minutes before it moved out of sight. To be honest I didn't really look for it later in the day, as I didn't realise how special it was!
….now over to Paul….
I used to work with Bert several years ago and he was aware of my interest in birds. I occasionally get sent photos of birds that people see in their garden, usually they are the commone, brighter looking birds (Waxwings, Crossbills, Siskin etc.). Bert sent me an email to my work on 29th January with pictures of the bird he photographed in his garden that morning. Having been off for a few days, I returned to work on 1st February and picked my way through my emails that morning. I opened one of the pictures Bert sent, expecting it to be something common and was stunned when I immediately realised it was a Pine Grosbeak! I contacted a few local birders and the news was circulated on the local birders text service. The bird was not seen that day but as I’m typing this I’ve just received info that the bird has been relocated at Collafirth!
….indeed it had….! Having gone AWOL somewhere locally for three days, more searching on the morning of 2nd, found the bird in gardens near Collafirth Pier, at Saltoo and so gave Shetland birders the chance to enjoy the islands’ third record of this High Arctic sometimes-nomad, following on from a brief bird at Maywick on November 9th 2000 and the hugely popular long-staying young male that spent 32 days around Lerwick, from March 25th to April 25th 1992.
A few hundred souls headed north back then to collect the monster rare, but aside from the November bird at Easington on November 2004, present for three days but, in circumstances vaguely similar to the 2013 Shetland bird, only seen by birders at last knockings (it disappeared during the late morning of the final day, never to be seen again, to the dismay of a few more hundred sorry souls) there’s been no chance of connecting with the species since ~ but let’s not forget the panic that the colour-fed, escaped red female caused in Essex in July 2006 ~ what a fiasco that was…..!
Pine Grosbeak has of course been on almost everyone’s rares-radar for the whole of the late autumn and winter too, since the big push of birds through Nordic countries from the end of October (a massive 12, 000 heading through Finland in a single week between October 22nd -29th). As birds filtered through to Norway and then on to Denmark by the middle of November (birds reaching the far south of the country, putting them within striking distance of Shetland), birders along the whole of the east coast were on red alert for this long-standing mega. Surely, surely, we were on for a Pine Grosbeak….?
Well, yes we were on for one as it happens and now, a couple of months after all that hope and speculation of exactly when and where one would appear, there it is and it is (almost inevitably) Shetland that wins the prize once again.
But, in another amazing twist to this particular Grosbeak tale, on the morning of 3rd (with the bird still in situ) it became clear that the “new arrival” wasn’t a new arrival at all ~ it was seen and photographed in a Christmas tree by Urafirth resident Alistair Williamson on November 1st and had stayed there a couple of days….non-birder Alistair thinking that the bird was a Crossbill.
So, in actual fact, we did get one bang on when there should have been one….! And it looks as if it was back there on January 31st too ~ a Facebook chat suggests that “a similar looking bird” was a brief visitor in the Urafirth garden that day….extraordinary scenes…!
Alistair and Bert’s bird will become Britain’s 12th Pine Grosbeak ~ the first four birds were all pre-1900, the first was shot in County Durham sometime before 1831, the second suffered a similar fate near Harrow-on-the-Hill pre-1843. The third and fourth birds were also shot, in North Yorkshire around 1861 and in Nottinghamshire in 1890.
Almost 65 years later, in November 1954, an adult female trapped on the Isle of May became the first modern-day record of the species, and was followed three years later by another November bird, this one in Kent and the same county scored the next one ~ a May adult male near Maidstone in 1971. A second May male followed four years later, on Holy Island (a rare two-day bird) and then it was almost 17 years until that famous first Shetland bird.
The bird was still present on 4th and 5th, having moved again, to Housetter, around a mile away from previous days (flying in as soon as a tape was played in the first bit of good habitat on 4th) ~ and a few planes and the odd ferry (when it could make it through horrendous, mountainous seas) took birders north through some pretty grim weather to enjoy this supreme, much-admired rarity.
Needless to say, the Grosbeak kind of overshadowed everything else this week including two outstanding finds in Ireland, both doubtless assisted by the strong westerly weather system that tracked across the Atlantic on 30th.
First up, a Black-browed Albatross seen off the coast of County Clare, passing some 500 metres offshore from Lahinch during the late morning of 30th. At first it may seem like a strange time of year to chance upon this supreme ocean wanderer but a look in the record books confirms that actually a February Albatross isn’t as unusual as you may think…
Currently there are eight accepted February records of the species, although only four or five birds are involved. In the Februarys of both 1968 and 1969, what was presumed to be the Bass Rock Albatross was seen in sea area Forth, off Eyemouth and then off St. Abb’s Head. In 1980, on February 4th, one was seen off Durlston (Dorset) and in four years during the 1980’s (’81, ‘82’ 87 and ’89) Shetland’s Hermaness bird was noted as being a February returnee, back on the cliffs below the Saito outcrop. Then, in 2005, an adult Black-browed Albatross was seen heading past South Stack, on Anglesey, on February 12th, perhaps heading for Sula Sgeir.
Quite where the 2013 bird was heading is anyone’s guess but it must have been a heck of a sight…..
Down the west coast and in to County Cork, where a lovely juvenile American Herring Gull was discovered at the fish factory at Baltimore on 2nd. Baby Smickers remain a significant prize for larid lovers and this is the second youngster at the site within the last couple of years.
Another young gull that was the cause of mounting discussion was the pale hybrid juvenile seen and photographed in County Kerry, at Cromane, on 30th. Birders in Ireland have got used to much-debated Thayer’s -like hybrids (which may or may not have been adjacent to the real thing ~ that depends almost entirely on the individual birder) but now it looks as though they’ve gone up a notch with a bird that appears to have a waft of some Glaucous-winged Gull influence in it. If it is a GWG hybrid (and that is a mighty big “if”) it is hard to work out what the other parent could be ~ American Herring could fit maybe?
However, given the propensity of “Eastern Seaboard” gulls to mix up their gene pools as much as those from the west coast, the options for the Kerry bird expand further ~ an Iceland or Kumlien’s hybrid with American Herring Gull another (more likely?) potential option. It bears a passing resemblance, in paler form, to the curious bird seen in Sligo in 2009 which was much discussed at the time too.
Whatever the lineage of the Cromane bird (birders overnight in the US seem to be liking it as the real deal, a full 100% GWG….), it seems almost certain that it too is a new arrival from across the Atlantic (especially given the appearance of the new American Herring Gull, three or four Kumlien’s Gulls, a new Bonaparte’s Gull and a few new Ring-billed Gulls and Iceland Gulls in the past week in Ireland and Scotland).
There is also the slim, outside chance (however fanciful) it seems, that it could even be the progeny of one of the recent Glaucous-winged Gull that have been seen in Britain and Denmark. Whatever route this bird has taken, and whatever the parentage (even assuming that Glaucous-winged Gull isn’t involved) there’s something very, very interesting going on….
Also in Ireland, the two regular star turns of recent weeks remained for a few more days ~ in County Galway, the American Coot remained at Murlach, near Ballyconnelly throughout the week and in Wexford the juvenile female Northern Harrier remained at Tacumshin between 31st-4th at least.
Meanwhile one of the other leading lights in the rarity role-call from the past few weeks, Berkshire’s American Buff-bellied Pipit was seen again at Kingsmead Quarry on 2nd, after no news for a week.
>>> Read the rest of the round-up here <<<
(illustrated with photos, videos and maps)
Artiklen er senest opdateret: torsdag 7. februar 2013 kl. 09.06
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