Wednesday 31 October 2018

More on Richard's Pipit

First-winter Richard's Pipit, Anthus richardi richardi, Beddington Farmlands (Kevin Guest). The best pic of this bird showing some of the covert and tertial details which are useful in ageing the bird (see ageing below) 

Identification: See expanded previous post HERE

Call: See expanded previous post HERE

Ageing: Looks like the bird has moulted all it's median coverts (broadly buffed tipped) and the tertials look second generation like with broad brown fringes. However these contrast with the pale tipped greater coverts (possibly moulted one of the inner greater coverts too). The contrast suggests a first-winter bird. In an adult the tips to the greater and median coverts are generally uniform light brown. 

Geographical Variation (HBW). Presumably this bird is nominate richardi (based on distribution). Centralasiae are the palest and largest subspecies. The tones in most photos are consistent with a darker toned specimen (typical of richardi). 

  • A. r. richardi Vieillot, 1818 – SW Siberia and NE Kazakhstan E to L Baikal; winters mainly in SW Asia, some farther W.
  • A. r. dauricus H. C. Johansen, 1952 – Transbaikalia and Yakutia E to Sea of Okhotsk and S to N Mongolia and NE China (NW Heilongjiang); winters in S Asia.
  • A. r. centralasiae (Kistiakovsky, 1928) – E Kazakhstan (Zaysan Basin, E Tien Shan) E to W & S Mongolia, S to N China (Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, probably also Inner Mongolia); winters in S Asia.
  • A. r. ussuriensis H. C. Johansen, 1952 – SE Russia (lower Amur area, Ussuriland) S to E China (S to Sichuan and R Yangtze), probably also Korea; winters in SE Asia.
  • A. r. sinensis (Bonaparte, 1850) – SE China S of R Yangtze; winters in SE Asia.

  • Global Taxonomy:  Pipits are hosted within the Family Motacillidae (Pipits and Wagtails). HBW recognise 43 species of pipit. Richard's Pipit was formerly considered a super-species with Australasian Pipit, Paddyfield Pipit and Grassveld/African Pipit (split also adopted by IOC). 

    HBW (Del Hoyo et al) 
    HWPB (Shirihai and Svennson)
    Pipits and Wagtails (Alstrom and Mild)
    Dutch Birding 34:1, (Lopez-Velasco et al) 

    Monday 29 October 2018

    Richard's Pipit !

    Found this beauty today at the farmlands. The first one at Beddington since 1970 (nearly a half century ago). Previous records are a spring bird from April 17th-18th 1958 and two autumn birds together from October 23rd-24th 1970 with one present until 26th.

     Wheatley (2007) lists 4 records (not including the early C19th birds see below) for the Surrey Vice County (with a further 2 in Spelthorne) with the last one at Barn Elms in 1994. Self (2014) lists 29 records for London, also noting that the first record of Richard's Pipit for the UK was from Kings Cross in 1812 with several records of taken birds in 1831 and 1836 in London including one from Tooting Common. According to Self the last record in London was 2008 (Spring birds at Rainham and Crossness). Of the London records 10 are from the Spring and there was also a winter bird at Staines Moor on December 11th 2004. 

    There have also been 2 records of Tawny Pipit (involving 3 birds) at Beddington (with a further 2 un-submitted records). However Tawny Pipit is much rarer in London with only 9 records according to Self (2014). 

    Richard's Pipit breeds in Siberia, Mongolia and China and generally winters in Southeast Asia. One of the more regular sibes to Europe with small wintering populations in Spain, Italy, Israel, Turkey and Arabia (Shirihai and Svensson 2018) 

    In a WP context , the confusing species are Blyth's Pipit and Tawny Pipit. The size, structure strong bill and streaking restricted to breast is obvious- a large pipit . Structurally the bird is like a cross between Skylark and a Wagtail.  The lores appear pale (cf Tawny Pipit). The supercilium is strong and extends well behind the eye (a supporting feature of Richard's vs Blyth's). 
    It certainly looks like a fresh bird with clear contrasting tips to the greater coverts. The clear definition suggests a first-winter bird. 
    Another flight shot showing the pale lores . In Tawny Pipit the lores would be darker. The pattern of the median coverts is not high resolution enough to test one of the most well known features of Richard's vs Blyth's (the more square centred first-winter media coverts of Blyth's). 
    In flight T6 appears all white with a wedge on T5. Extensive white on the outer rectrices is a supporting feature agaisnt Blyth's Pipit. 
    The bird characteristically hovered in flight. Blyth's are less prone to this behaviour. 
    Richard's Pipit and the Incinerator 
    Single call- in a bird in flight the best identification feature will be the call. The call here has the typical sparrow like quality of Richards. Compare Blyth's and Tawny below. 

    Double call
    Tawny Pipit for comparison

    Blyth's Pipit for comparison 

    Sunday 28 October 2018

    Back to the patch and a major flight

    Back to patch today and straight into a major movement. The day's totals:

    1 Great White Egret (dipped), 1 Short-eared Owl, 1 dark-bellied Brent Goose, 345 Fieldfare (mainly NW, also a few E), 230 Redwing, 429 Chaffinch (mainly W),  263 Skylark N- NW, 1300 Starling W, 40 Lapwing W and 10 Wigeon and 1 1st-winter Caspian Gull on the deck. 

     Dark-bellied Brent Goose (above and below) 

     Short-eared Owl- came in from east and went southwest 
     An incredible 263 Skylark today 
     Fieldfares on the move 
     Over 1300 Starling moving W through morning 
    1st-winter 'Caspian Gull' (some dark marking on heads and pattern of greater coverts not classic) 
     Todays weather- the second day of a moderate north easterly airflow causing a large movement of birds across the North Sea. Presumably our birds today that were mainly heading northwest were 'tacking across' the airflow. 
    Weather for Tuesday- looking good for more movement across the north sea and hoping as the eye moves around will push birds into the Thames- planning a day out on Tuesday to the estuary 

    Nearctic Vagrants on Corvo, Azores 2005-17, Dutch Birding latest issue

    Delighted to have a paper published in Dutch Birding's latest issue. Here's the promo blurb and some sample pages: 

    A new issue of Dutch Birding (40-5) is now out! This is without doubt THE Corvo issue! More than 30 pages on rare birds of the famous island in the Azores. In the first paper, David Monticelli and colleagues describe the discovery of four new species (Lincoln’s Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler and Eastern Wood Pewee) for the WP. The second paper, by Peter Alfrey and co-authors, analyzes the occurrence of 105 Nearctic species on Corvo during 13 years (2005-17). Both papers combined have 35 photographs of American vagrants found on the island. More at:

    Also here's a couple of important links to Birdwatch articles (that I wrote)  about vagrancy which are referenced in the paper:

    Friday 26 October 2018

    Corvo 2018 Highlights

    Back in London now. One of the best Corvo seasons. Here's a few highlights. 

    Tuesday 23 October 2018

    Corvo 2018, Day 10- Yellow-browed Warbler

    The flight was cancelled again today which was most fortuitous as Corvo's first Yellow-browed Warbler was found by Hannu and Gary in the same place the Wilson's Warbler was found. Surely the furthest west this species has ever ventured. 

    Darryl and I covered the lower and middle fields today looking for more migrants from the east. We had a juvenile/female Pintail going west at sea, a Common Gull, Sanderling and Barn Swallow. Elsewhere on the island there were 2 Skylarks and a Chiffchaff. 

    We also had the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift and the Dickcissel. 

    For all the Corvo news see HERE.

     Yellow-browed Warbler (above and below) 

     First-winter male Dickcissel (above and below) 

    Corvo 2018, Day 9 - Stranded

    The plane was cancelled today stranding over 10 members of the group on the island including me. With an east to west oriented runway, planes cant land on the island in a northerly wind and there was a strong north easterly today building from the easterly airflow that has been established for the last few days. We are now awaiting the arrival of European birds but there are still new American birds being discovered; an apparent new Dicksissel today, a new Ovenbird and presumably one of the Chimney Swifts from Flores arrived here yesterday.

    Many birds that arrived previously are still present today despite the difficult blustery viewing conditions including 4 Indigo Buntings, 1 Philadelphia Vireo, 1 Red-eyed Vireo, 1 Myrtle Warbler, 1 Common Yellowthroat, the De Ponte Ovenbird,  1 Northern Parula and Scarlet Tanager. Additionally yesterday the Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, Yellow-throated Vireo, Bay-breasted Warbler and White-eyed Vireo were still present.

    Full daily logs on the Corvo Birders Facebook page HERE

     First-winter male Dickcissel, Middle Fields (Vincent Legrand)
    Chimney Swift, Middle Fields (Vincent Legrand) 
    The Corvo log 

    Sunday 21 October 2018

    Corvo 2018, Day 8 -A quiet day

    The easterly wind has built today but a couple of new American birds have still managed to push through- a Chimney Swift and an American Great White Egret. The Chimney Swift now takes the total number of Nearctic species to 28 (one away to match the record set in 2017).

    I stayed in the guesthouse today as I over did it on the war wound yesterday but still managed to see Chimney Swift, Barn Swallow and Great White Egret from the Veranda.

    I didn't take any pics today so here's a few shots of the star birds over the last few days from Vincent.

     White-eyed Vireo (Vincent Legrand) 
     Eastern Wood Pewee (Vincent Legrand) 
    Lincoln's Sparrow (Vincent Legrand) 

    Darryl and I worked out our Azores lists today. Trying to resurrect the Azores List rankings which will post on the Corvo blog HERE

    Saturday 20 October 2018

    Corvo 2018, Day 7- It keeps coming

    Another two major birds on the island today, White-eyed Vireo and Eastern Wood Pewee. This is shaping up to be the best year ever. There have now been 27 species of American landbird. 2017 is currently the record year with 29 species and we still have another week and more to go of the autumn. 

    It's getting tough at the top for the Western Palearctic listers too with Pierre-Andre Crochet at No 1 narrowly avoiding being overtaken by the previous incumbent Ernie Davies who luckily for Pierre missed today's White-eyed Vireo after his agent Phil Abbot messed up Ernie's bookings and took him off island yesterday two days too early than Ernie had told Phil to book. No doubt Phil is getting a good roasting now. However Pierre-Andre has no cause to relax as Chris Bell has secured five lifers on this trip (an unprecedented season) and is now three away from the top. The Germans have decided to remove Yellow-headed Amazon from the Cat C National List so Pierre has dropped even with Ernie at No 1 with Chris Bell tearing up behind. 

    I decided to do Tennessee Valley this morning and had lunch with a Northern Parula. There were also two in De Ponte today and one with the White-eyed Vireo so the one I had lunch with was possibly a new bird which will be nice to have on the find's list HERE. Also had a Red-eyed Vireo on the way back to the village. 

     Northern Parula (above and below) 

    View over to Flores


    Friday 19 October 2018

    Corvo 2018, Day 6- A European flavour

    The wind has swung round to the southeast today as a high pressure has firmly established itself. A few new American birds were found today so perhaps some are still making it in (unless they were new discoveries rather than new arrivals). More on the Corvo blog: HERE

    However there was certainly a flavour from the east today with a Stonechat reported first thing and then Garden and Willow Warbler found in the village. Later in the afternoon a Barn Swallow arrived.

    I spent today birding the village and welcomed the arrival of Darryl and David. There were a few bits around the village. 

     Yellow-billed Cuckoo (above and below) 

     Willow Warbler 
     Garden Warbler 
     Azores Chaffinch
     Azores Blackbird 
    Atlantic Canary 
    The North Atlantic is somewhat split in half with a westerly airflow to the north and and easterly airflow over the Azores. There is still the possibility of birds being blown into the Atlantic and then moving against a light headwind or hitching a ride on a ship so all hope is not lost. However it looks like that for the next week we are going to be getting easterlies- which generally is not great for here. 

    Thursday 18 October 2018

    Corvo 2018, Day 5- A Private Session with a first for the WP

    So I set off this morning alone to re-locate the Blue Grosbeak from yesterday. I was anticipating a hard search of what was yesterday a flighty and ranging individual. I had various GPS coordinates of where to look so so I headed to the place it was last seen yesterday. I was mentally preparing for the start of a long lonely search when within about a minute I heard a distinctive single note call coming from behind me- there it was feeding in the grass. Result! Like an Indigo Bunting on steroids. A cracking bird. Stefan was the only other birder on the island that didn't see it yesterday and within 5 minutes he was also onto the bird. Hopefully it stays around for the birders arriving tomorrow. 

    In the same area there were at least 3 Red-eyed Vireos (probably 4) feeding in the hydranga hedges and showing particularly well. Basically a perfect little morning.

    Spent the rest of the day on the hunt and visited De Vinte and then made my way slowly back to the village. Had the Common Yellowthroat in the village but thought I'd save the Lincoln's Sparrow and Myrtle Warbler that were also found today for tomorrow's mission. 

     Blue Grosbeak (above and below) 

     Red-eyed Vireo gallery from Poco D'Agua 
    Poco d'Agua-beuatiful birds in a beautiful location
    More from Corvo on the Corvo Blog HERE