DECEMBER 2011'S MYSTERY BIRD ANSWERS
Just when I was wondering if it's actually worth carrying on with the competition into its sixth year, entrants to it make that a resounding yes and its all on again! Thanks to the 30 who took part again this month, though a total of 65 have taken part in the competition at some point or other through the year. Thanks for the support. So, were December's mystery birds really that easy? A case of yes and no it seems...
Mystery Bird 23
Let's get straight to the point here. It was an Osprey (juvenile) and everyone got it right. I suppose that combination of brown and white plus those ridiculously long and curved talons sort of gave it away but well done all the same ☺.
Osprey, Qatar, October 2011 (Ian McKerchar)
Mystery Bird 24
Ah, well, if the Osprey was easy then this plainly was something of a 'curve ball', designed to throw you off track. It's positively identifiable no doubt but certain features were always capable of drawing you into another identification, the old "this one's easy" false sense of security. It worked too, proving that sometimes, no matter how obvious it's identity seems, it's always worth just checking everything else to make sure. Don't rely on just a couple of features.
Most entries followed a common theme with Robin receiving one vote, Garden Warbler and Nightingale two each, Redstart four votes and Red-breasted Flycatcher and Red-flanked Bluetail with eleven and ten votes respectively. Juvenile Robins have a heavily spotted breast and so we can be certain it's not that species. Garden Warbler lacks the pale eyering, rather warm, buffy underparts and that large eyed look our mystery bird possess. Nightingale has stouter, pale fleshy pink coloured legs, unlike the dark, spindly legs of our puzzler. Redstart is actually a pretty good call and generally could fit our mystery bird quite nicely but it lacks the paler base to our birds bill, has an obvious paler area immediately over the base of the bill and doesn't fit the general 'feel' of our big eyed but small and compact little thing. We can also see enough of the tail to see no hint of any reddish, something which seems to shine out on Redstarts no matter what angle or how much tail you view. So it fell down to the two splendid little fellas, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Red-flanked Bluetail, between them amassing 70% of all the votes. Does that hint of warm orange on the flanks point to the Bluetail? Don't they usually have a more distinctly demarcated white throat, more extensively orange flanks and a hint of pale fore-supercilium? They certainly match our mystery bird's big eyed, all cute appearance and white base to the tail sides though. Hang on a minute. White base to the tail sides? Could it be? Isn't that just white feathering from the underparts? Take a close look at it's straight edges and the true shape of it and I'm afraid it's so. It is a white base to the side of the tail, which of course Bluetails don't have. But cute looking, big-eyed first winter Red-breasted Flycatchers do and that's what it is. Well done to the eleven who correctly identified the mystery bird; Pete Kinsella, Peter Welch, John Tymon, Phil Greenwood, Michel Rogg, Paul Brown, Gary Crowder, Nick Green, Mike Cooper, Mike Hirst and Henry Cook,
Red-breasted Flycatcher, Qatar, October 2011 (Ian McKerchar)
Of course, seeing as all 29 entrants got the Osprey correct, that meant the ten who also identified the Red-breasted Flycatcher also managed both mystery birds in the process. Well done to those ten.
And so, the end of the competition came to its conclusion and with it we obtained a clear leader, something I wasn't sure was ever going to happen at one point! Despite being pushed hard by John Tymon and our two-times previous winner, Paul Brown, our 2011 winner only dropped a single mystery bird all year, way back in May, but came back to claim the title with a clean sweep from there on in. Well done therefore to Pete Kinsella, you win a copy of the 2010 Greater Manchester Annual Bird Report.
A massive thanks to everyone who took part during the year though, particularly the hardy souls who attempted every month without fail regardless of whether they were getting them right or not, for that's the true spirit of the competition; the taking part with perhaps a little learning in the process.
Cheers everyone, Ian