• Vincent

There's a big if - but another big redpoll invasion could be in the making.

The if depends on stuff like weather conditions, and the exact turn the majority of the wandering birds in Europe will take. But it's obvious that at the moment, a higher number of birds than usual is passing through. And they are early!

The thought alone is thrilling - two large invasions in a row would be unprecedented (as far as I could find). Note there were a long 9 yrs between the biggies from 2008 and 2017!

And it's not just Mealy (and to a lesser extent Lesser), with records in the UK and Belgium (Coues's) Artic Redpoll also seems to be involved!

In January I trapped our first Arctic ever (in 91 years of ringing), so Peter, Morrison, Ed and myself were stunned to find another one in our nets on 9 November. Note this is still a (semi) rarity in the Netherlands!

Just look at that tiny bill (a feature of this taxon) compared to the Mealy's bill on the left! It's much smaller than in last January's bird.

Also notice the broad white fringes on the rectrices and tail feathers.

The pink on the breast, flanks and rump was a bit subdued (and show less well on the slightly over-exposed pics), but this is an adult male. The tail feathers could be more rounded, but are not as pointed as in immatures, the pink stretches out over a large area (breast; flanks; rump) and the fresh tertials with the broad white edges are also adult.

The faint stripe on the longest undertail covert perfectly fits Arctic - beware though that, though rarely, Mealy Redpoll sometimes shows a similar pattern (see my ID article on this subject).

Oh yes, it of course had a large white rump (2,1 cm between the tiniest specks). The white rump reaches half way the 2nd tertial. Also note the cinnamon wash, typical for (autumn) Arctic.

What a way to both start and (nearly) end a year!

#CouessArcticRedpoll #MealyRedpoll #birdidentification #birdringing

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  • Vincent

The ID article on Eastern Black Redstart ID that I wrote with Nicolas Martinez has been published!

It was published in the latest Dutch Birding issue (40:3).

Check these samples:

Check out the article

Check it out here

FREE bonus material!

Bonus material can be found here (in English) and includes an Excel document with our sample, more pics of the birds that feature in the article, pics of analysed birds that did not make the final print and newly found hybrids that were not used for our analyses. More on hybrids in German: here

Big shout out to anyone who helped during the process of writing and publishing.

#EasternBlackRedstart #hybrids #hybridredstarts #phoenicuroides #redstartidentification

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  • Vincent

Early May I spent a week on the lovely island of Sardinia. I was of course keen to see Balearic Shrike, the endemic west Mediterranean island ssp (badius) of the Woodchat Shrike.

Now I'm learning by thinking out loud here, so comments are welcome.

The most important difference with the other 3 ssp. is - of course - the (near) lack of a visible white primary patch: about 2/3 of all birds have no white patch at all when perched, 1/3 shows a limited amount on the inner primaries only.

I think visible is a key word here. But first things first.

Here are some pics of the nominate ssp. senator, the default taxon in most parts of Europe. Note the obvious white patch on the primaries.

Woodchat Shrike ssp. senator, 2nd cy female, Rhodopi Mountains, Bulgaria, May 2009

Woodchat Shrike ssp. senator, 2nd cy male, Lesvos, Greece, May 2012 (note the large mask; aged i.e. by the brown juvenile lesser coverts)

Woodchat Shrike ssp. senator, 2nd cy (the unmoulted primary coverts give away this bird's age), Lesvos, Greece, May 2012

Other subtle differences include the colour of the cap (more orange red instead of chestnut in badius), the - on average - darker wing (due to narrower white fringes on the coverts) and the size of the black mask (smaller in badius) and bill (larger in badius). For ID details see Small & Walbridge (2005) or this summary on Surfbirds.

Woodchat Shrike ssp. senator, adult male, Sardinia, Italy, May 2018 (note the funky little detail in the outer tail feather!)

The first Woodchat Shrike I saw on Sardinia seemed to lack a white primary patch. Even though the cap was rather chestnut, the mask on the forehead wasn't very broad and the bill didn't look smallish. With what I saw, combined with the location, I thought I had a full bingo card. But I made the call too early!

When it took off (ok, I came too close), this is what I captured:

That's not a little white I missed, that's a massive wing bar! In hindsight the wing patch must have been obscured: 'overlaying' secondaries sometimes cause confusion.

So this bird was a migrating senator (ok, technically the Iberian ssp. rutilans could not be excluded) instead of the desired Balearic Shrike.

A few more Woodchats were present on the beautiful Capo Ferrato, like this 2nd cy male. The mask is small. The bill: not very deep perhaps, but the cap is orange red.

But look at the outer primaries. Though somewhat faint, there's still a fairly large amount of white visible. Another senator in disguise in badius territory that on a larger distance perhaps could have been misidentified!

And then there was this adult female. There's no white wing patch and the bill looks quite heavy. There are hardly any pale fringes on the coverts. All looked good for badius!

Then it took off. Hey, perhaps it's not that much, but there's certainly more white visible on the base of the primaries than I expected!

So is this acceptable for badius in flight? Well, I guess so...

I saw this individual on 3 days, from many angles and I never saw a wing patch when it was perched. Apparently the white is shorter than the primary coverts (and was therefore obscured when perched).

Boy, it's annoying that our national museum of natural history is closed for renovation for 2 yrs. I'd love to lift some primary coverts on badius, to see what's underneath.

In any case it was obvious that even within its range, a careful look was still needed to ID Balearic Shrike.

#BalearicShrike #badius #WoodchatShrike #Sardinia

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