JULY 2011'S MYSTERY BIRD ANSWERS
An excellent 35 entrants participated in this months round of the mystery bird competition, including a sole new competitor (welcome again Jane). It was a slightly odd round too with a total of seventeen species offered as solutions to both mystery birds and was the first round ever which accumulated three 'no idea' votes on one of those bird! Let's see where the problems lay.
Mystery Bird 13
This small streaky passerine saw 71% manage to correctly identify it but the remaining 29% split between eight different species. There were certain very obvious features which helped in the correct identification of this bird, not least the very dark brown upperparts complete with extensive pale 'streaks', conspicuous rufous edged tertials and greater covert wingbar plus a distinctly rufous rump. We can gauge a rough idea of the bird's jizz too, against the bramble it is perched on, and it seems certainly no larger than Robin sized and rather compact and rounded. Out of the nine species offered as answers to its identity (Twite, Robin, Whinchat, Stonechat, Dunnock, Bluethroat, Brambling, Sedge Warbler and Redpoll) only one possesses all these characteristics but many entrants may have been fortunate to have seen one or two of these in the recent month and which no doubt (rightly) helped their cause. The bird is a juvenile Stonechat and a little cracker at that, but I'll leave you to pick out the points as to why it wasn't any of the other suggestions, not least because that's one long list!
Juvenile Stonechat, Outer Hebrides, June 2011 (Dennis Atherton)
Mystery Bird 14
This was yet another mystery bird which caused a good amount of chaos amongst participants with despite 60% managing the correct answer, a further seven incorrect species also offered along the way, with three further counts of 'no idea'! Our mystery bird is a combination of various brown hues and is very coarsely streaked giving a, dare I say it, "scruffy" appearance. The secondaries and primaries are uniform blackish-brown and there is little contrast between the upper and underparts colouration. Needless to say, the bird is conveniently hiding its head! The combination of features brought about thoughts of wildfowl for many, with four species of duck being submitted. Mallard (three votes), Pintail (two votes), Teal (two votes) and Eider (one vote). None of these wildfowl really fits though as their plumage (in females) is more uniformly and distinctly patterned with regulated dark centres and paler edges to each feather forming a distinct pattern, quite unlike the 'mess' that our mystery bird seems to possess. Similarly, the underparts of those wildfowl are equally distinctly patterned with regular dark markings, once again a feature clearly not found on this mystery bird. Short-eared Owl received one vote and it's fairly easy to see why but their underparts are much paler and finely streaked dark plus their remiges are pale and distinctly barred unlike the solidly dark secondaries and primaries of our mystery bird. Three skuas were thought to fit the appearance of our mystery bird but two of them, Arctic and Long-tailed never attain that combination of upperpart streaking and rather uniform, unstreaked underparts in any age group. The third skua, that of Great Skua, does indeed fit our big scruffy looking mystery bird though. Take a look at the photo again and think of Great Skua or even compare it to a field guide or photo and there's a chance you could be kicking yourself right now ☺.
Great Skua, Outer Hebrides, June 2011 (Peter Welch)
A very healthy seventeen entrants managed to identify both mystery birds correctly, which was pretty good all things considered. So congratulations to Mike Cooper, Gary Crowder, Joe Wynn, Adam Jones, Chris Knight, Henry Cook, Mark Rigby, Michel Rogg, Neil Calbrade, John Rayner, John Tymon, Paul Brown, Karen Foulkes, Damian Young, Pete Kinsella, Nick Hilton and Dave Broome.
The race for the top is as open as ever with the current top three of Paul Brown, John Tymon and Pete Kinsella all with thirteen correct answers and the nearest chasing pack of Dave Broome, Neil Calbrade and Nick Hilton all with twelve correct answers. With five rounds remaining there could well be an upset or two still on the cards so keep at it, after all it's just for fun!