Arnhem AEB413

18 October 2014, Meijendel, Wassenaar, the Netherlands

© 2018 by Vincent van der Spek

The Big Black Monster

August 14, 2019

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!

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