• Vincent

Sound track advice: Stormy weather - Billie Holiday

I’ve always considered myself a birder with a camera, rather than a bird photographer. What I do is functional, not aesthetic. I’m not particularly gifted in this department, nor am I interested in learning all about camera settings.

But once in a while even an amateur like me makes a decent picture: for the first time one of my shots made it to the cover of a magazine

Figure 1. Cover of Dutch Birding 41:5 with my European Storm-petrel picture

This European Storm-petrel was photographed on 12 August 2019 during one of Paul Connaughan’s Co. Cork pelagics. I planned to go out at the ocean four times, but nearly two weeks of continuous stormy weather saw my ambitions go up in smoke. One trip was all I got, but cracking views of Stormies washed away some of my disappointment.

In the Netherlands Stormies are rare: despite I live along the coast, I’ve only seen them on five days, the last time as long ago as 2010. And though I’ve seen some pretty well, it was nothing like this (a bit shaky, so don't get seasick):

European Storm-petrels, off Baltimore, Co. Cork, Ireland, 12 August 2019

I was curious to find out how to age these things. This bird is super fresh, crisp really. There’s no wear or moult whatsoever. The outer primary is rather pointed, not rounded. This all points towards a young bird.

Figure 2. European Storm-petrel, first calendar-year male, off Baltimore, Co. Cork, Ireland, 12 August 2019

I never knew you can also sex them. According to Baker (2016), males have extensive white on the underwing (with white medium coverts and white edges to the outer greaters), but apparently this only works for adults.

I also photographed this youngster that has less white on the underwing:

It makes me wonder if the more extreme birds could be males anyway. But sex: undertermined.

So did I make a decent photograph? I did! But still: functional!

References Demongin (2016) Baker (2016)

#ageing #sexing #EuropeanStormpetrel #DutchBirding

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  • Vincent

​​When the ladies from bird hospital De Wulp sent me the shots of the Grey-cheeked Thrush taken into care last year, it really knocked me off my feet for a few seconds. But when Rinse and I received this video mid-July we were equally shocked:

(video by Sharon Lexmond / vogelopvang De Wulp)

Black Woodpeckers colonised the country around 1915 and reached the western part of the Netherlands half a century ago (my father actually saw one of the first ones on my local patch in Meijendel). A small breeding population established in the dunes – only to disappear again in the 1990s, correlated to the rise of the Northern Goshawk. I have only ever seen one in my province (Zuid-Holland). In 2001 we actually thought they had already been wiped out, so our sighting felt like we witnessed the arrival of a big black monster from the Upside Down, such was the surprise. We celebrated like we just found a national mega.

So now, 18 years on, one may really wonder: what on earth was this thing doing here? Well, as it turned out the injured bird was picked up by a truck driver in the SE of the country, within the breeding range of the species. The driver took it home and brought it to the nearest bird hospital he knew. It recovered well from its wing fracture over the next couple of weeks.

The red cap obviously makes this a male. Baker (2016) doesn't cover this species, Demongin (2016) only briefly and on Javier Blasco Zumeta’s brilliant website this is one of the few largely incomplete documents, so ageing it was interesting.

The bird was actively moulting lesser and medium coverts, as well as feathers on the upperparts, head and in the tail. The old coverts were brown-black, whereas the new ones were ink to shiny black, forming an obvious contrast. We figured this was a contrast between juvenile and adult feathers, which was later confirmed by Cramp & Simmons (1985). So a 1st calendar year bird it was!

Just look at the moult of the cap, and how the juvenile feathers are orange red and the new adult-type ones are almost crimson.

Early August it was successfully released at an appropriate site within its breeding range:

(by Sharon Lexmond / Vogelopvang De Wulp)

So everybody happy!

Once again many thanks to Sharon and Lizzy @ De Wulp!

#BlackWoodpecker #moult #ageing #sexing

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  • Vincent

Two new articles are added to the site!

Citrine Wagtail ID: do flight calls tell us which subspecies is involved?

Could calls shed some light on the subspecies that reach NW Europe as vagrants? Maarten Wielstra collected a team of people to work on an analyses to find out if the calls of various ssp. differ on their breeding grounds. See more here.

Hybrid redstarts in Europe and North Africa: an analyses of 121 hybrids

Nicolas Martinez, Bern Nicolai and I wrote a British Birds paper on redstart hybrids. A summary of the analyses can be found here.

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