Showing posts from April, 2017

Spring Birding: Opening to Flava & Channel Wagtail

Spring migration is now in full swing with all our summer migrants back in the UK and set for another breeding season. Everyone has a migrant which for them is the symbol of spring and for me it can only be one bird and that's the one and only Northern Wheatear, yet saying that there is one bird which each and every year never ceases to amaze me and a bird that I can't go a spring without seeing, so much so that I'd twitch one. That bird is one of the most iconic birds of the traditional British farmland and is the Western Yellow Wagtail aka Motacilla flava.

The RSPB estimate there are 15,000 territories in the UK but unfortunately it's on the decline as it is across it's global range. But that's not why were here, were here to give you a brief insight on one of the biggest and baddest avian subspecies complexes there is out there, as well looking at one of the many hybrids within the complex that frequently occurs on British soil.

As it currently stands the …

Spring Birding: The Quest for White Wagtail

Out of the White Wagtail complex 4 out of the 11 races have been documented in UK & Ireland: White (alba), Pied (yarrelli), Amur (leucopsis) & most recently Masked (personata). Where as Amur & Masked are vagrants Pied Wagtails are the dominant race in the UK & Ireland with the dominant global race White Wagtail occurring as a passage bird with the occasional wintering bird or even hybridisation with our resident Pied.

For many the White Wagtail is a true sign of Spring like that of Barn Swallow, Northern Wheatear, Common Chiffchaff & Sand Martin, however unlike that of its fellow spring migrants the White Wagtail requires a bit more expertise when identifying in the field. So ladies & gentleman, here's a list of key features to keep an eye out for whilst out in the field:

Key Features:
Mantle & Rump: Compared to that of our resident Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrelli), which mantle tone shades from a dark grey (♀) to a coal black (♂), the White Wagtail…

Winter Birding: Kumlien's or Iceland ?

1st Winter Kumlien's Gull Identification:
Bray Harbour in my home of Co. Wicklow, Ireland is one of best sites for gulling in the county with over 15 races of gull being recorded. As it is with winter the white-wingers (Iceland & Glaucous) are everyone's goal and throughout the winter of 2016-17 both species along with the return Ring-billed Gull had all been recorded, however on one of my visits to Bray I came across a gull sp which at first struck me as a 1st winter Iceland Gull (L.g.glaucoides), loafing about with the Herrings. The appeared bleached which would have been due to its spring moult and as the days went on it started to show extremely well and come to bread which lead to me being able to extract a series of shots in the field to study more when I headed back to base; after looking at a number of features the idea that this individual could infact be a candidate for a NE Canadian race of Iceland Gull kumlieni, started to become more & more realistic due t…