JANUARY 2010'S MYSTERY BIRD ANSWERS
A resplendent 36 entrants participated in the opening round of this years competition, including more than a few new competitors. So welcome one and all and once again, my heart felt thanks for giving it a go and continuing the competition in what is now amongst the very last of it's kind. Hopefully you'll all continue and we'll pick up some others along the way but until then on to the most important part. How did you all do?
Mystery Bird 1
There was to be no fooling you on this one, well almost, as all but one of the 36 entrants managed to correctly identify the species in question. Obviously I'll have to try harder in the coming months as we appeared to have 'upped our game' somewhat ☺. There was obviously something familiar about the bird to you all, the rather reddish-brown on the greater coverts, tertial edges, uppertail coverts and the edges of the rectrices, the latter of which have obvious white on their outer feathers. There is much black evident too, obvious on the tail, primaries and patent bold streaking confined in this image to the flanks. The underparts are white and the mantle seems to be somewhat boldly streaked black and brown. The very fastidious amongst you may have well noticed that the tertials exhibit a pattern associated with members of the Emberiza family, or rather, buntings and with it, drawing from the plumage features we have established already it succinctly brings us to our correct identification that it is in fact a Reed Bunting. The only wrong answer was for Tree Sparrow, a species which differs from our mystery bird image by lacking any flank streaking, white in the outer tail feather and by possessing blatant white tips to the greater coverts which would have been apparent in the image.
Reed Bunting (female or perhaps 1st winter male), Risley Moss, Cheshire, January 2010 (Dennis Atherton)
Mystery Bird 2
Waders, Ribble Estuary, December 2009 (John Tymon)
Ah, a nice flock of waders. They all look greyish and on the face of it, a quick glance might seem to suggest only a couple of species, but is there? Images such as this are actually much more difficult to assess than it might first appear. Whilst some of the species seem easy enough, they are clearly not being viewed at the same distance which could well give rise to an incorrect assessment of size. Also, as we'll see, the actual jizz of them varies from individual to individual and is hardly consistent in any of them.
There are actually four species present in the image yet eight were suggested by the 36 competitors involved and there were infinite variations of those species in many entries. So let's start with the more obvious ones that are there. There are in fact eight Grey Plovers in the photo (the two entrants who took the trouble to count them both managed only 6). There are two together bottom right, a line of three from the centre horizontally towards the right of picture (the bird in the very centre of the picture is set back slightly compared to the others and so looks smaller), one's head just visible above the bird second from the left and two more together just left and below of centre. There are many Knot in there, some are easily identifiable and others not so and this is were some confusion was caused. Many of the Knot present (particularly the bird just underneath the most left hand Grey Plover) look slightly smaller than the others and appear to have slimmer bodily proportions which led many entrants to the conclusion that Sanderlings were involved too. But they were not I'm afraid! The birds in the image are spread across a wide depth of view which gives rise to mis-interpretation of their actual size if we compare them to the birds in the foreground and their variation of jizz can be due to a multitude of reasons. A total of 74% of all entrants gauged correctly that Sanderling was not involved in the image. That's two out of four, so what of the other species involved? Bottom left is a sneaky Turnstone trying it's best to be obscured by a Knot but being given away by it's more rufous tones and striking white wingbar although it did well enough to fool five entrants who didn't spot it. The fourth and last species is to also be found trying it's utmost to remain concealed and can be located towards the top left of the photo. It doesn't look particularly big but yet appears to have a significantly long and bi-coloured (black/fleshy) bill that would fit no small wader. Once again, it lies much further away than the other waders in the image and is larger than them all and yet again, it managed to obscure itself well enough for eight entrants to miss it altogether. The remaining entrants decided, correctly, that the bird was a Godwit and if we look closer at the image we can see that it's primaries lack the blatant broad white wing bar of Black-tailed Godwit and it's bill looks distinctly as if it is slightly upturned. These two features lead us to our correct identification that the our fourth and final mystery bird in the image is a Bar-tailed Godwit (although eliminating Hudsonian Godwit could be challenging at best, though fortunately no one thought to suggest it!).
Only 47% of the entrants correctly identified all four species (and no others which weren't there) though it was an admittedly challenging photo in many ways so well done to you all for giving it a go.
And so, the first round of this years competition leaves us with 20 competitors leading the way with a 100% record at this admittedly very early stage. Our currently leaders therefore are Gary Crowder, Nick Godden, Caroline Clay, John Frankland, Nick Isherwood, Simon Warford, James Latham, Steve Atkins, Mike Chorley, Mike Baron, Michel Rogg, Sean Sweeney, Mark Rigby, John Rayner, Henry Cook, Paul Brown, Nick Green, Neil Calbrade, Phil Greenwood and Rob Thorpe.