Vocalisations vs. Appearence in a tricky Leaf warbler

29 04 2015

“If it has more than three chords, it’s Jazz”

– Lou Reed

It was a boring spring. Despite the good numbers of Pallid harrier and Great snipe registered mainly in the Northeastern Catalan coast, the best I had seen in Barcelona area was a “Mediterranean” spotted flycatcher Muscicapa s. balearica/tyrrhenica. Sadly, the bird went away without me being able to take a photo of the underwing.

belearica

Yesterday felt just like another random day: some Willow warblers, some Pied flycatchers, a sudden Redstart… nothing too exciting until I got a text from Manolo saying he had found a Yellow-browed warbler in Montjuïc mountain, right in the middle of Barcelona. The bird seemed to be ringed in one of the record shots Lucy managed to take, so we decided to come back late in the afternoon to try to take better photos. Things went actually interesting when Manolo pointed out that he had not heard it a single time giving the typical Yellow-browed call but some Hume’s-like sounds instead. The bird was not cooperative and they had only got poor views and breif vocalisations, but he already got the feeling of a grey bird.

After having seen some Yellow-broweds this spring in the Canary Islands (like the one below), I was aware of how grey they can get when worn, so we both knew we had to focus on sound recordings in order to clarify the identification of the bird.

yellow browed

There were quite a lot of birds in the area, including some nice migrants for  the patch, such as Turtle dove and Golden oriole, but after a couple of hours without relocating the bird, we were sitting in the grass, just chilling, waiting for the other to say we should leave. Suddenly, the bird called behind us, almost in the same tree Manolo had found it in the morning. This time, the call sounded just like a Hume’s leaf warbler! After some search that produced some new birds (at least 2 Western Bonelli’s warblers, either they were not there or it’s incredible how many birds do we miss despite intensive search), we located the bird and managed to take decent photos.

inor_humei1

inor_humei2

Apart from what looks like an extensively black bill, the rest of the bird looked like what I’d expect from a Yellow-browed by this time of the year: pure white wing bar in the GCs, green tones in scapulars and mantle, well-defined facial marks and a still visible 2nd wing bar in the MCs. However, we both agreed we had heard a Hume’s.

To get a sound recording suddenly turned out to be critical, so we just followed the bird with my cell phone pointing towards it, until it eventually happened. Again, as in the previous 3 times we had heard it, the call was not that of a Yellow-browed and reminded more of a Hume’s. This time, however, we had a recording for a later analyse.

sonogram inor_humei2

As can be seen in the comparison with Hume’s and Yellow-browed (taken from Xeno-canto), it definetely looks (sounds) like Hume’s. After having checked almost all the recordings in this website, I’ve not been able to find a single Yellow-browed with a decrecent end. In the other hand, and despite the high variability described for this species, all the Hume’s end with this downward inflection. To summarize the variation, the standard Yellow-browed call looks, in sonograms, like a V; the standard Hume’s looks like an upside-down W, with the angle of the first V more acute.

So, as Manolo said, “why it’s never easy?” It’s true, we never find a Pelican, we usually have to deal with shy uniform warblers and when they are a nice and barred species, there’s a conflict between call and appearence. Since our experience with Hume’s leaf warbler is low (none in my case!), comments on the bird are more than welcome. In the meanwhile, we’ll wait for the pelican.

PS: Many many thanks to Manolo for cheering up the spring 🙂





Goldcrest + Siberian bonanza

14 10 2014

“Even in Siberia there is happiness.”

– Anton Chekhov

Huge numbers of birds are right now migrating over Falsterbo, some of them landing in both our garden and the Lighthouse garden for the delight of the ringers and the impressive number of birders around. Despite the cloudy days, everytime we look up, there’s flocks of geese, cranes, wood pigeons or common buzzards facing south or going back north in case bad wheather conditions makes the Öresund strait look like an impassable barrier.

cranes

pigeons

But not only the big birds are on the move. Passerine’ migration is also at its peak and so hundreds of thousands of finches, tits, larks and thrushes are filling the sky with an incessant flight call concert. Good training for our ears, since among the Common crossbills one can already spot some Parrot and among the Reed buntings, some Lapland buntings are also passing through. The ringing is being great, almost too much! Last saturday we ringed 2531 birds. Now that I’m writting it, it sounds just like a number, but all those birds went with a ring after having been aged and sexed. Most of them (1853) were goldcrests. We are having a very good goldcrest season, already the 6th best ever and there’s thousands everywhere in the Peninsula. These wickey beauties are foraging in trees, bushes and even on the ground. While ringing our goldcrest number 1100 (around) of the day, Kaj asked me “can you imagine how many spiders are eaten in these days in the Lighthouse garden?” I’m tempted to answer “all of them”.

regulus

regulus2

But let’s start talking about the good stuff, but let’s leave the best for the end. The list of scarcities we’ve caught these days it’s quite nice. It was mainly the Swedish gang who got excited by the Firecrests, but it’s impossible not to be aware that they actually are nice birds. This adult male represented the record bird for an autumn season at the Lighthouse garden.

firecrest

Both the Swedish and the foreigners enjoyed an adult male Ring ouzel, the first of the nominate race I handle and the second to be ringed this season (two busy with goldcrests to enjoy the first one on Saturday).

torquatus

torquatus2

And it was mainly the SW ringers celebrating this kind of late adult female Red-breasted flycatcher, also a season record bird.

parva

And coming from Siberia straight to Flommen reedbed, a couple of Yellow-browed warblers that cheered us up in the last days of another hard-work Flommen season. What looked promising in the beginning with plenty of both Marsh and Reed warblers, ended up being a season with more than one thousand birds below the average. We should be worried about the current status of Reed warbler…

inornatus2

inornatus

Goldcrests are called kingbirds in several languages (for instance, Kungsfågel in Swedish, Reietó [little king] in Catalan) so with them it came the king of the kings: a 1stW Pallas’s Leaf warbler!

proregulus

And last but not least, the actual crackerjack of the season (so far): this 1stW Radde’s warbler. It was the third to be caught in Falsterbo and a lifer for me. When Carro came into the ringing hut with a Phyllos on her hands and ask me to look at the bird I had expected just a chiffchaff (since she knows I like them…) but then I saw a bird with strikingly huge legs and head, apart from everything else. I should had checked first the smile on her face.

raddes

 

It’s only 14th of October… a lot more to come!





“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.

Montagus

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.

tarsiger

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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