Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Meopta and Forest Optic Best Find

Well, after a bit of a lean month in February, we are back on rarity track for March with a genuine BB rare, a Siberian stonechat, discovered in north Norfolk.

Moss Taylor, who found the bird at Weybourne Camp, has kindly shared the details of his find.

While walking along the beach by Weybourne Camp, I met Marcus Nash, who said that Richard Millington had found what he thought initially may have been a Siberian Stonechat the previous afternoon on Weybourne Camp, but Marcus was not entirely sure what sex it was. We agreed to split up to try to relocate the bird. After about five minutes I came across three Stonechats, 2 males and a female, in the bushes immediately behind the camp. The males were clearly European Stonechats, indeed I had colour ringed one of them the previous year. The female, however, was strikingly different from a female European Stonechat, in that it was incredibly pale. It sat on top of a blackthorn bush for a minute or so, thus giving me time to watch it through my 'scope (which I carry in my pocket and hand hold when in use). My initial impression through binoculars was of a very pale, sandy-buff bird with a distinct, pale supercilium, recalling an autumn Whinchat. This was confirmed on looking through the 'scope and the only darker areas were the closed wings, although the feathers here were broadly edged pale buff, and a slightly darker crown & face which contrasted with the paler supercilium and a whitish throat. At this point, the colour-ringed male began to sing very quietly only about 20 feet away from me, before flying straight towards the female, which took off revealing a uniform, unmarked pale buff rump. It disappeared to the other side of the bush and at this point I rang Marcus and he arrived a few minutes later. Unfortunately, despite intensive searching over the next hour or so, the bird could not be relocated, although a total of 5 male European Stonechats were found. It is not unusual for Stonechats, especially in the spring to move west along the north Norfolk coast, and we could only assume that it had moved further west, but it was not subsequently reported elsewhere. I should perhaps add that I have been taking part in a colour-ringing project on the north Norfolk Stonechats for the last three years, and spend many hours watching them and noting the colour ring combinations. No females or juveniles have ever previously shown the very pale buff plumage of this bird.

Great find Moss! 

Aside from the little bit of eastern glamour though, it was very much as we've come to expect things, rarity wise. There were multiple green-winged teals and ring-billed gulls, which we've now had multiple records of in each month so far. Several people scored 6 points with white tailed eagle too.

We've considered the scoring of bonus point (or even any points!) for reintroductions. Well, it might seem a little unfair that a reintroduced white tailed eagle scores the same as a red-breasted flycatcher, but genuine vagrant WTE's do turn up, and proving that a bird is from a reintroduction scheme might be difficult! Also, there are probably quite a few folk who wouldn't want to lose the points they scored for there red kites....

Much of the other rare stuff this month was standard early spring fayre, such as hoopoe, white-spotted bluethroat, and serin, so only likely to trouble a local rarities committee at best! Still, it's great to have yet another BB rare turn up gor a dedicated patch worker, and one that has a great chance of making the Meopta and Forest optic shortlist at the end of the year

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