Thursday, 5 November 2009

Lucky break

Tuesday it rained all day and the best I managed was a couple of Whooper Swan in the morning.
Wednesday started off with rain but cleared up about lunchtime. I was busy doing odd jobs in the morning and when the weather started to clear I headed off to check on the WF Goose flock. I picked up PS on the way and we headed for Fidden. First spot of the day was a flock of geese with a larger bird amongst them - WT Eagle - not a bad start. As the WT dropped from sight PS picked up a female Hen Harrier but that didn't stay in view for too long either. We moved a bit further down the road to find a decent sized flock of Redwing and the local Starlings feeding in the fields but no sooner were they found and they were up in the air - why? A Peregrine was shooting through! The birds soon settled so we tried to get closer. The Redwings were quite jumpy.........but this Starling was oblivious as it stood singing....The local Kestrel was on the hunt but a little to distant for a decent shot.We picked up the WT Eagle again as the heavens opened. The bird was an adult that appeared to have one wing tag on the left wing and none on the right. It was heading away from us so there was no chance of reading the tag or getting the colour. The Geese that the eagle had disturbed were nowhere to be seen so we headed off in search of them. The WF Geese were on the loch with the Greylags and still only 25 birds. Next stop we picked up an Otter that was tracking the shore. The only reason we picked it up was the wake that was coming from the shore in flat calm water. If there had been a wind blowing we probably wouldn't have seen it at all. Another WT Eagle put in an appearance but this time it was a juv gaining height - no chance of any photos again. We had a quick lunch stop as time was getting on and it wasn't too long before we picked up an Otter that we had a chance of photographing. We headed off in front of the beast and took up strategic positions. He was on a mission, no fishing, just moving fast - one shot and he was gone.We couldn't pick him up again after he went past so we moved on. We picked up a couple of GN Divers that were fishing offshore and there seemed to be quite a few seals close to the shore too. The sun was going down and the light was starting to fade so we turned around and headed back and what should we see but the Otter still on a mission. We turned around again and got in position on the shore and waited. The view was nice.........and there were some nice rock formations........but Houdini wasn't playing. He must have holed up somewhere out of sight from us - ah well. The local Greylag Geese were flying around and making a racket but when they settled I took the opportunity for an environmental shot.It was a pleasant end to a pleasant day but probably better for scenic shots than anything else.Thursday was another pleasant day but not much chance of doing anything as the motor was going in for an MOT. There were 4 Whooper Swans outside the shop early on and the Golden Plover had returned too. This Curlew was busy dismantling a crab in decent light conditions but I was suffering from a lack of shutter speed.I headed off to the garage and what should I see but an adult WT Eagle flying around. Typical to come across something when you haven't got time to play!It was a lucky break though but not as lucky as what I found at the garage. A bird called 'peep' from the conifers - what the heck's that? No more sound and nothing moving. Then the call again 'peep' and there was the bird too. I dug my bins and camera out and waited for an opportunity to get a good view. The call wasn't right for Yellow-browed Warbler but it did sound like Siberian Chiffchaff from what I could recall. The bird put itself on display eventually and it looked like this.......definitely a Chiffchaff but it doesn't look like a Sibe to me. Not white enough underneath and too brown looking but the call was right. Any ideas out there?

3 comments:

Alan Tilmouth said...

Cracking views Brian, doesn't look like Sibe to me either but as to what it is (that's a shrug).

Newton Stringer said...

"sibe" chiffs are a bit of a nightmare !

The key seems to be the lack of olive and yellow tones... The traditional idea of sibe chiff is of a bird showing brown/grey ground colour, whitish underparts and buffy flanks/supercilium.

Siberian chiff should lack any yellow tones (except in many cases a small amount on the underwing coverts). Olive tones should be limited and restricted to just wing/tail feather fringes, rump and scapulars... the nape and crown should be lacking any olive tones....

In the field most of the sibe chiff candidates I have seen have been brown/grey looking with white underparts, buffy flanks and a peachier looking face. They've always shown black legs and bill too....

Your bird does not look like a traditional sibe chiff to me from this one pic...... but I know from my own experiences with these chiffs that colour reproduction in photos can vary a lot with different light conditions. To be honest I'm struggling to actually see olive tones on this bird (but the photo won't enlarge when I click on it, so I am straining my eyes a bit !), it does appear to have white underparts, buffy flanks and black bare parts colour... all of which you could argue are good for "sibe" chiff. Did this bird show olive tones or any yellow in the plumage ? Is that mantle olive ? Are those undertail coverts yellowish ?

This is just the visual stuff, but the call you mention is interesting too. Currently its generally accepted that the piping call that sounds a bit like a dunnock (or bullfinch) is a bit of a diagnostic feature of this form of chiff (by which I mean tristis and fulvescens).

I’ve got some recent pics and stuff on my blog.....

You can hear the call of a “presumed” sibe chiff here....

http://newtonstringer.blogspot.com/2009/10/siberian-chiffchaff-calling.html

plus some pics here...

http://newtonstringer.blogspot.com/2009/10/low-newton-long-nanny-25th-oct-2009.html

&

http://newtonstringer.blogspot.com/2009/10/tin-church-low-newton-23rd-oct-2009.html

Also worth reading this....
http://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=1203

Having said all of this, it seems to me that understanding of chiff forms seems to be changing all the time.... and I gather there are large areas of overlap where different races intergrade.... so it’s not straightforward at all..... like I said a bit of a nightmare, and if you think about it too much you’ll get a headache !!

Have you got any more pics of this bird ?

Big Yin said...

Cheers for the comments guys - I've checked all the info that I have and I'm still non the wiser! Gary - if you want to send me an email bryan(at)wildaboutmull.co.uk I'll send you the best of the photos.
Thanks again.