• Vincent

Arctic surprise


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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Little Bunting
The most interesting thing about this chapter is the sexing of birds. This could be done on the basis of lateral crown stripe: a new feature for me. Because of overlap between adult females and young males, birds should first be aged. The authors emphasize that this is their vision, and not necessarily the final answer to this matter. I found one in the field in October (Figure 4-5) of which I took reasonable pictures. The very rounded tail feathers look adult, as do the tertials and large coverts. The lateral crown stripe appears to be jet black and is separated from other feathers, such as the greyer back of the head. The orange-red crown stripe really stands out. Conclusion: according to this book this must be an adult male! The deep brown-red cheek - a variable feature according to this book - also fits that. So it works then? Well… how useful this really is, remains the question: based on this book I would label two "females" in Shirihai & Svensson (p546 both top right and bottom right) as males! The caption of one of these even mentions "safely identified as a female" because it has a relatively dull plumage for an adult bird. But is also has a jet black, strongly separated lateral crown stripe! The bird at the bottom right even has a pretty deeply coloured cheek, which I would be happy to call a male. Is this due to different insights, and if so, who should I believe? Or am I not interpreting this correctly? In any case, it is fascinating!

© 2018 by Vincent van der Spek