Monday, 17 November 2014

Isabelline Shrike of the Turkestan race

On Sunday 9th Nov Royston Wilkins and Brian Mellow found a shrike perched up on the brambles as they were leaving Pendeen.  Initial reaction was naturally a Red-backed Shrike but doubts pretty quickly set in.  Word soon spread and a whole raft of suggestions ensued, including hybrids, Over the next week, many photo's have been taken and circulated widely.  The general consensus among shrike experts is that this bird is indeed a first year bird of the Turkestan race of Isabelline Shrike.

Nationally this is a rare subspecies but in Cornwall, there are two previous records assigned to this form.  In 1989, a popular first winter bird was present at Zennor from Oct 27th - 31st.  In 2002, a first year male was found at Porthgwarra on June 26th.

The nominate race of Isabelline Shrike is also referred to as Daurian Shrike and there are two records for Cornwall: a first year bird opposite the airfield at Nanquidno Oct 25th.  A stunning adult male was well watched at Pendeen in early October 2013.

Turkestan Shrike, Pendeen, 16th November 2014.

American Golden Plover at Davidstow, Cornwall

A few more images of the confiding American Golden Plover at Davidstow back in October.  This was the second record of the species this Autumn and just one of five American waders reported during the Autumn in Cornwall.  This poor showing of American vagrants must be the worst Autumn for a generation?

Friday, 24 October 2014

Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Porthgwarra, Cornwall

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was found by visiting birder Andrew Tongue on Tuesday 23rd October in the elders near the toilet block at Porthgwarra.  By early afternoon it had moved up the valley to the doctor's garden area. By late afternoon it was re located near the dried-up pond near the wall.  It was certainly active and unlike any previous American cuckoos, was unwilling to perish too soon.
About 75 birders managed to connect and most had pretty good views, albeit fleeting.
I was extremely lucky to get a burst of shots off when it appeared in the elders in the 60 foot valley.

This is the 9th record for mainland Cornwall.  The previous records are detailed below:


Older records:

1830      'one obtained somewhere in Cornwall'
1887      Cury, Helston dead 14 Oct.

1938  Mawnan Smith found shot 7 Oct (report says "unfortunately shot, though it had little hope of making the return flight"). Published in BB.                                              
1971   St Mawes 4 - 7 Nov        
1980  Penzance 9 Oct – taken into care and died.                      
1985  Pendeen picked up dead 13 Oct.                                  
1999  Cot 10 Oct                        
2000 St Levan 12 – 13 Oct

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

American Golden Plover at Davidstow, Cornwall

Brian Craven and Mark Worden found an American Golden Plover at Davidstow in the week.  Being just the third North American wader in Cornwall this Autumn, and with precious little else to see, I decided to take a look on Sunday morning.  It was showing well and typically very confiding.  It was not concerned with the stream of admirers viewing from their cars.

As always with Davidstow, the light was stunning and variable and always a challenge for the best exposure.  The images below were taken about twenty yards away from the bird.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Subalpine Warbler showing characteristics of Moltoni's Warbler?

Two distant images of the male subalpine warbler seen at Porthgwarra.  One surprising aspect of this bird is how pale and washed out it looks.  There's barely any dark red in the throat at all, just a uniform, pale pinkish wash covering the complete underparts.  Some observers though believe this is just a feature of an adult male Western Subalpine that has completed its moult and is in winter plumage. I would like to have got some images of the upper tail pattern but other photographers have now managed to.  One of the key ID features is the tail pattern.  A Moltoni's T5 tail feather (ie second one in from the outside) would show no white intrusion onto the inner web.  Photo's of this bird's T5 tail feather are spot on.  The one clincher for Moltoni's though is the call, which should be similar to a Wren-like rattle.  Tony McGowan clearly heard it call at close range and all he could hear was a single "tek"....