Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Juvenile sinensis Cormorant, Seafield Pond, Dunbar 13 Aug 2013

The sinensis Cormorant (the continental subspecies of our local Cormorant) was still considered a national rarity in Scotland until earlier this year. There have now been over 20 records of this subtle subspecies, most of which were seen in Lothian, including this bird that I found at Musselburgh in 2010. As a one-time description species I think it is now merely a notable subspecies at local level, though I don't think I'll get out of the habit of looking for them whenever Cormorants are near enough for scrutiny.

The identification hinges around the angle that the bare skin forms relative to the cutting edge of the mandibles. There are lots of diagrams on google, but this is a good one. In today's bird the angle was easily 90° which puts it safely in the sinensis camp. I think, though I am not an expert, that the bird can be aged as a fresh juvenile by the brownish plumage, pale tips to the coverts and generally unworn plumage.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

LBB x Herring Gull hybrid, Musselburgh, 8 Aug 2013

Lesser Black-backed Gull, hybrid LBBxHerring Gull, Herring Gull (top–bottom)

I popped along to Musselburgh mid-afternoon to check the gulls. Loafing among the gulls along the river was one of the hybrid LBB x Herring Gulls that I found earlier in the week. I managed a better mantle comparison shot for this bird (Bird 2) than I managed earlier in the week. The (feral/formerly injured) Pink-footed Goose was back in the area - I haven't seen it for quite a few months.

Another mantle shade comparison but this time with a Common Gull with an apricot or rosy hue to its breast and underparts (centre). The hue is stronger in life than is captured by the camera.

Also of note was the first juvenile Common Gull that I have seen this season. It was alongside some adults that were hidden in among the Kittiwakes at the roost. One of the adult Common Gulls had the apricot (or rosy) tint to its white plumage. This seems to be very unusual - I think it is only the third individual that I have seen with this tint in the last three years (for one bird see here and here). It could, of course, be that I have seen the same individual three times. I have photographed this plumage tint before - although it seems that (like the rosy tint in other small gulls) the human retina is better at seeing it than the digital sensor in a camera.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Two more Herring x LBB Gull hybrids - this time at Musselburgh

Comparison shot showing different mantle tones of argenteus Herring Gull (left), graellsii Lesser Black-backed Gull (right) and Herring x LBBG hybrid (centre). This is Bird 1 of 2.
A extremely good morning of gulling at Musselburgh with Little Gull, Kittiwake and juvenile Mediterranean Gull (another!) at the Esk mouth and two hybrid Herring x Lesser Black-backed Gulls along the grassy banks of the Esk. All those Lothian year-tick waders on the scrapes (Wood Sandpipers et al.) will have to wait for another time...  Never mind, grilling these two argentatus x fuscus hybrids at close range made up for all the distant views I have had over the last few months. These hybrids closely resemble Yellow-legged Gulls, which are so rare in Lothian that every candidate has to scrutinised closely – in my experience every candidate so far has turned out to be a hybrid (see here, here, here, here and here). In addition, I now believe that this bird that I photographed at Musselburgh in 2010 and was the subject of this BirdForum thread was also a Herring x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid.

Here is today's first bird a sub-adult advanced third summer type plumage, perhaps, or retarded fourth summer...

Hybrid Herring x LBBG at Musselburgh 4 Aug 2013 (Bird 1): note mid grey upper tone and greyish pink leg colour. Primary projection is exaggerated by excessive wear of white margin on tertials - extent of wear can be seen by exposed rachis on furthest wing. Note band across P5 on nearest wing - narrow particularly on inner margin. Eye ring red.

Hybrid Herring x LBBG at Musselburgh 4 Aug 2013 (Bird 1): mid grey upper tone and greyish pink leg colour. Extensive black on underside of P10. Note excessive wear of what would have been a broad white margin on secondaries and tertials - extent of wear can be seen by exposed rachis. Eye ring red.
Hybrid Herring x LBBG at Musselburgh 4 Aug 2013 (Bird 1):  newly grown P1–3 show fresher colour but still overall mid grey tone. Greater signs of immaturity than expected when wings spread. P10–P5 on left wing show extent of black in outer primaries - this presumably will reduce as this moult continues and bird ages. Note band across P5 on nearest wing - narrow particularly on inner margin. Note excessive wear of white margin on inner secondaries and tertials.
Hybrid Herring x LBBG at Musselburgh 4 Aug 2013 (Bird 1): a view of the pattern of black on underside of primaries

Here is today's second bird, a sub-adult third summer type plumage, perhaps... Note that this bird is identical (apart from a slight difference to bill tip coloration) to the third cycle hybrid of known Lesser Black-backed x Herring parentage shown in plates 307–309 of Adriaens et al. (2012) Hybrid gulls in Belgium – an update British Birds 105, 530–542, which is quite easy to find online.

Hybrid Herring x LBBG at Musselburgh 4 Aug 2013 (Bird 2): note mid grey upper tone and pinkish leg colour.  Note band across P5 on nearest wing - narrow particularly on inner margin. Eye ring reddish.
Hybrid Herring x LBBG at Musselburgh 4 Aug 2013 (Bird 2): note mid grey upper tone and pinkish leg colour.  Although the bird is missing P6–7 on both wings the subterminal band pattern on both P5 can be made out here and it is complete but narrow on the inner margin.Note also the extent of black in the tail.

Hybrid Herring x LBBG at Musselburgh 4 Aug 2013 (Bird 2): P6 is growing on left wing. Extensive black/brown in the tail and extensive brown secondaries.
Hybrid Herring x LBBG at Musselburgh 4 Aug 2013 (Bird 2): Not only is this bird almost identical to the one in Adriaens et al (2012) but it is almost identical to the one I photographed nearby in 2010 and was discussed in BirdForum here.

Finally, here are both birds together, with a Herring Gull. As I was photographing the second bird the first flew up river and checked me out to see if there was any more croissant going!...

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Myna dip

Crested Myna... sadly not..

Too busy before my recent brief trip to Portugal to get to grips with the range of exotic species breeding in and around Lisbon, I was unaware until too late that there is an easy Crested Myna roost just across the Tejo estuary at Barreiro. Galling, especially since I had driven past the area at the right time of day. Ah well, can only blame myself for not doing my research thoroughly enough. Anyway, on last morning of the trip I decided to combine some gull photography along the Lisbon shoreline with a check of a few shoreline parks to see whether any of the mynas has make it across the water for the morning.
Its a Common Myna
Amazingly, in the very first area that I checked, the row of palms along Rua Arameiros just East of the Praça do Comércio, I heard the distinctive voice of a singing myna. At first I assumed that the bird was captive and that I could hear it through an open window (there is plenty of birdsong to be heard this way in Lisbon), but after a careful search I found a Common Myna singing its heart out. Well, not a Crestie but a myna nevertheless, and as soon as it is upgraded to Category C in Portugal (not sure how likely this is...) I'll be popping it on my WP list!
Singing away in Lisbon

I'd seen a few species of mynas earlier in the month with Common Myna, White-vented Myna and Hill Myna regular species in Singapore and Malaysia.

Common Myna in Malaysia earlier in the month
White-vented Myna in Singapore Botanic Gardens
Hill Myna on Pulau Tioman, Malaysia - big, noisy, but shy birds

Friday, 2 August 2013

Mediterranean Gulls in Edinburgh and Lisbon

Unringed adult Mediterranean Gull at Seafield, Edinburgh, 2 Aug 2013
Well, I hadn't seen a Mediterranean Gull this year so was pleased that a few were loafing on the sloping front at the Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon earlier in the week. Just like buses, of course, as soon as I am back in Edinburgh another one pops up with this nice adult at Seafield today. That's my ninth species of gull at the site this year (GBBG, LBBG, HG, CommonG, BhG, Glauc, Kittiwake, Little Gull & Med) – here's to the tenth, whatever it may be!

Today's Med Gull (centre) enjoying the delights of the Seafield shoreline
Juvenile Mediterranean Gull in Lisbon on 28 July 2013 - not a Portuguese breeding species as far as I know... I wonder how far this one has travelled since fledging...
First summer (2CY) Mediterranean Gull in Lisbon on 28 July 2012
Mediterranean and Black-headed Gull comparison

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Long-legged Buzzard/Gibraltar Buzzard? El Rocio, Donana, Spain 18 July 2013

The Atlas Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus cirtensis is little known in terms of its identification and distribution. Not only is it similar is size and structure to the Common Buzzard but there are suggestions that the two forms hybridise. With photos of the quality of the first three here an identification is not safe but I'm going to stick my neck out and suggest that this adult bird that I photographed a couple of weeks ago at El Rocio in the Coto Donana is an Atlas Long-legged Buzzard. This ID is tentative but based on the apparent leg length in the perched shots, the tail pattern in the flight shot below and some of the plumage features of the underwing...

Since writing this post earlier today I have become aware that there is considered to be a possible Long-legged x Steppe (?) Buzzard hybrid swarm of buzzards known as the Gibraltar Buzzard that has recently been identified in southern Spain. Presumably this bird is one of these...

Whether this nearby juvenile has any Atlas Long-legged Buzzard genes in it I'm even less sure about...