Iberian-like chiffchaffs in Sweden

29 10 2013

“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

Everybody knows the chiffchaff world is a complete mess. Among all the fucked up chiffchaffs we’ve caught this autumn (including tristis, tristis-like, abietinus, abietinus-like, collybita and collybita-like), my favorites are still a couple of “green chiffchaff” we caught two weeks ago. Both of them showed what in my opinion are Iberian chiffchaff characters, although the only call I heard from one of them was perfectly normal for a Common. Of course I am not that mad to claim 2 Iberian chiffchaffs ringed the same day in autumn in southern Sweden, but, from an Iberian point of view, it’s interesting to know that these birds do exist and therefore we should be cautious when it comes to identify an Iberian chiffchaff in the field without vocalizations.

2 chiffchaffs

The birds showed pale upperparts, very clean, without any hint of grey nor brown and with some lemon-green tinges instead. The underparts were also very clean, with blurred yellow in the undertail coverts and yellow stripes in the breast. There was not a frontier between the cheeks and the throat, giving an open-face impression, what is meant to be a reliable key feature for Iberian. Furthermore, the eyebrow was greener above and in front of the eye, what creates a patchy impression, just as in an Iberian.

Structurally, they looked long, I wouldn’t say abietinus-shaped, but there was something on them that reminded me as such. However, the wing-lengths were 58 and 59 respectively, within collybita range and far from the >61 usual in the abietinus we are catching. Moreover, P2 equalled P7 in on of them, whereas the other showed the usual P2=7/8 for Common Chiffchaff. In the photo below it’s possible to compare the structure and coloration of a typical abietinus (left), a typical collybita (centre) and one of the two tricky birds caught (right).

3 chiffchaffs

Since a picture paints a thousand words, the photo below was taken in Spain in April 2009. It shows an Iberian chiffchaff (in the left) together with a collybita Common chiffchaff. If you compare this photo with the one taken in Sweden, you’d probably find some similarities.


However, there are some differences. The Iberian is brighter and more saturated green-yellow, especially in the scapulars and flight and tail feather edges. Also, the bill is longer and thinner, with a characteristic shape ended in a subtle hook, whereas the Swedish bird’s got a bolder bill that gives a more powerful impression. It’s worth to keep in mind that the Iberian chiffchaff of the photo above was caught after the pre-breeding moult. It’s worth or maybe it’s not, because, to be honest, I don’t know the effects of the pre-breeding in these bloody weird chiffchaffs. My hope is that they become greyer, but my feeling (based on photos of spring birds from Israel) is that they become greener. If so, field identification of Iberian chiffchaff based on plumage characters is sadly still in standby.

And, yeah, as I usually do after a dense talk about some socially unaccepted stuff, the prize for the keenest readers is always a nice photo of a nice species, caught last week in our garden: a Pallas’s Leaf Warbler:



“It’s blue! It’s blue!”

17 10 2013

“Blue are the streets and all the trees are too.”

– Blue, Eiffel 65

After a month without updating the blog, it’s time to actually do something, even it can only be a review of the last weeks. Many interesting things have happened during this period, maybe too many to have time enough to sit in front of the laptop late in the afternoon.

The actual autumn in Falsterbo had suddenly started during my flash visit to the Canary Islands, but some nice birds such as the Steppe eagle had kindly stayed around. Other highlights of the raptor migration included the biggest day ever for Honey buzzard and a nice juvenile female Montagu’s harrier that stayed in the area for a week. It’s a pity that this was the species from what I got better views… the rarest harrier here but again the commonest in the Iberian Peninsula.


We kept on catching some good birds, both at the Lighthouse and at Flommen. A couple of littoralis Rock pipits in the cages were very interesting for a Mediterranean birder, especially this nice 1st winter with quite a lot of white in the tail. With strong light conditions, you can probably get a pure white impression of R6.

Anthus petrosus 1blog

Anthus petrosus blog2

The tail of the adult (below) was more similar to what I had expected, but I still don’t know if it’s age related or just individual variation.

Anthus petrosus 2blog

In the meanwhile, the lighthouse produced a Nutcracker during standarised ringing and a Tengmalm’s owl during the night (the last thanks to Aron’s keen work!).

Nutcracker blog

aegolius blog

Extra ringing at the Station is also successful, with 2 Yellow-browed warblers and a Red-breasted flycatcher ringed so far. However, I think the best in that respect is still about to come.

inornatus blog Ficedula parva

What finally pushed me to update the blog is yesterday’s Red-flanked bluetail. It was still dark in the first net-round and Stephen and me where in net 3 extracting the usual robins and wrens when Stephen started shouting at me “it’s blue! it’s blue!”. After some days with hundreds of Blue tits, something blue in the net is not surprising. This time, however, the “blue thing” was more exciting and less painful fr our already damaged fingers. I ran towards Stephen and he was holding the bird (that was still in the net) in a way that I could only see the tail. It took me a few seconds to react, but yeah… it was a Bluetail.


I’ve never got the English meaning of the word “blue” to describe something boring. A chat with such an electric blue tail is just a discharge of adrenaline, especially when the blue is extensive to the inner GCs and 30% of the LCs. Seemingly, the post-juvenile moult can be that extensive and therefore at least some birds can be sexed in 1st winter plumage. An exciting item from a bird that was already exciting itself!

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