FEBRUARY 2011'S MYSTERY BIRD ANSWERS
Though the competition seemed to suffer the usual post January drop in participation, a very respectable and warmly appreciated 42 continued in their quest for the right identification. These two passerines appeared to cause no end of confusion and deliberation which is at the end of the day, the whole point of it all I suppose, but everyone atleast gave it their best shot. So just how good was your aim then? Let's find out...
Mystery Bird 3
Unless that's one hugely deceptive branch this is a relatively small passerine we're looking at and seemingly everyone agreed there. It appears largely hues of green above and off-white below, clearly giving rise to the six similar coloured species offered as answers. To my eyes and judging where the bill is, it has a noticeably paler whitish throat and given we can make out the blurred eye, the lores appear similarly pale too. There also looks to be a short blackish moustachial stripe extending from the dark and very slim looking bill. Just taking these head features I think we can begin eliminating a few species. Greenfinch (1 vote) has a much larger, conical shaped pale bill plus darker lores amongst others. Three species of phylloscopus warbler were suggested but none bear the jizz of our mystery birds rounded look with a particularly short tail. Further more Wood Warbler (1 vote) has a very bright yellowish throat and breast sides with the remaining underparts white and both Chiffchaff (1 vote) and Willow Warbler (2 votes) both lack our mystery birds obvious pale areas around the 'face' and it's short black moustachial stripe plus our bird does seem to display some patent whitish edges to the wing feathers which fit neither phyllosc. These combination of features for our mystery bird contributed to the overwhelming 86% of entrants correctly identifying it to one of the Regulus pair, the crests. The choice is therefore between Firecrest or Goldcrest. The overwhelmingly striking difference between the two species is of course the blatant white supercilium of Firecrest and the lack of it on Goldcrest. I feel that on our view supplied in the mystery bird image a supercilium isn't present. Sure there is some white/pale there but a supercilium such as on Firecrest should really still be obvious even on a bird such as this shaking it's head but despite this we can still see the sides of the head fairly well. Look closely and you can see two eyes on one side of the head, brought about by the bird's rapid movement being caught by the camera. Still looking we can see that the whitish area looks to be in fact restricted to around the eye only and that fits Goldcrest perfectly. So thought 79% of entrants and they were all right, the mystery bird is a Goldcrest. Many entrants also commented, somewhat puzzled, by the presence of such yellow feet. It is to be fair not illustrated as such in the Collins Field Guide amongst others but take a good look at the next Goldcrest you chance upon and all should be revealed.
Goldcrest, Jericho, February 2011 (Mike Killelea)
Mystery Bird 4
I had been sat on this wonderful image for ages now, waiting for the right opportunity to use it in this competition and this month I felt it's time had come. I knew it was difficult, no shame there, afterall this is about pushing ourselves, challenging our abilities and hopefully improving them along the way. Well, perhaps! Anyway, I'd been bursting to use it and sure enough it's publication caused nothing short of mass confusion. Fewer (if any?) Manchester Birding mystery birds have created more species touted as the answer and this little swine presented no fewer than 14. To illustrate the bewilderment of the vast majority of entrants the following species (with their votes for in brackets and listed in species order) were given as potential answers:
Tawny Pipit (2), Water Pipit (3), Rock Pipit (1), Yellow Wagtail (2), Common Nightingale (16), Thrush Nightingale (1), Rufous Bush Chat (7), Common Redstart (1), Northern Wheatear (2), Blackbird (1), Icterine Warbler (1), Common Starling (2), Rose-coloured Starling (2) and Chaffinch (1).
Note the significant 38% who voted for Common Nightingale, significant because they were right! Yes, no waffle this month, straight to the answer, well sort of. So many entrants potentially found this confusing as the bird is of one of the eastern races of Nightingale (which has been recorded in the UK), a race which renders them duller above and distinctly paler below. In the field they bear more than a passing resemblance to Rufous Bush Chat due to their overall colouration, more distinct facial markings and longer tail but note in our mystery bird image the lack of really black lores, eyestripe or short moustachial stripe plus the visible underside of the tail, all contribute in eliminating that species. As for the other species offered they all, without exception, display certain features which are patently at odds with our mystery bird and now you know the right answer, I'll be interested to hear if you can see where you went astray ☺. The sixteen indeed deserve some tribute for their achievement so well done to Andy Isherwood, Nick Green, Brett Westwood, Joe Wynn, Mark Rigby, John Tymon, Adrian Dancy, Tim Wilcox, Henry Cook, Nick Hilton, Michel Rogg, Paul Brown, Neil Calbrade, Steve Suttill, Pete Kinsella and Dave Broome.
As a side note, many of those who correctly identified this bird also correctly identified it to one of the eastern races and that included the race hafizi. The name hafizi has actually now been replaced by the name golzii for the easternmost population of the Common Nightingale (Knox et al. 2008).
Eastern Nightingale (Luscinia mergarhynchos golzii), Bahrain, June 2010 (Adrian Drummond-Hill)
Unsurprisingly in such a difficult round, only thirteen entrants managed to identify both species correctly. Big kudos therefore to Andy Isherwood, Nick Green, Brett Westwood, Adrian Dancy, John Tymon, Tim Wilcox, Nick Hilton, Michel Rogg, Paul Brown, Neil Calbrade, Steve Suttill, Pete Kinsella and Dave Broome.
Eight participants already have all four correct answers so far this year but it's very early days and that could (and I'm sure will) change at some point. So, just keep at it folks.