NOVEMBER 2010'S MYSTERY BIRD ANSWERS
Another cracking effort saw 38 entrants turn out this month and a big thanks to each and every one of you. Once again many entrants included a detailed explanation of their decisions and whilst it's important that I point out it is not a requirement of the competition (just two bird name and a simple 'sod off' will merrily suffice!) I really do enjoy reading them and appreciate the time and effort that goes into the ones I receive. It was an unusual round in many way as it seemed that you either knew it straight way (pretty much gut instinct) or frankly couldn't see the 'wood for the trees', so's to speak. Anyway, let's take a look at that wood and see what the trees actually were.
Mystery Bird 21
Who say's there's no thought goes into my mystery birds? Despite being purposefully taken (I really wouldn't have bothered taking it otherwise I assure you!) it just looks like some form of bird having a cheeky scratch right? Well, in fact it is admirably displaying a very important identification feature, one which separates it from a very similar species indeed, a species which was fortunately suggested by one entrant, so atleast I get to explain why. The plot unfolds!
Six species of bird were suggested and one entrant drew a complete blank at what it could have been. Well atleast that was being honest. It was however a well identified mystery bird overall (so not much of a mystery at all for the majority) with 79% of entrants being bang on the money. Even judging from the surrounding branches it's obviously a small passerine of sorts and it certainly appears to have some reasonably distinctive features. It is really rather dull, almost warm sandy-brown on the upperparts and looks quite creamy white on the underparts apart from a seemingly purer white throat and the legs appear a fleshy-pink colour. Perhaps most obvious are patent bright rusty-red coloured edges to the wing coverts and particularly the tertials, the latter of which have conspicuous and sharply demarcated blackish centres. So, out of all our suggested answers, let's see what doesn't fit with that admittedly brief initial description. Cetti's Warbler received three votes but is much darker, bright reddish-brown on the upperparts whilst lacking the conspicuously contrasting rusty-red wing feather edges and contrasting black tertial centres. Nightingale received a single vote and can be eliminated for very similar reasons to Cetti's Warbler. Chiffchaff also attained an entry by a single vote but all its feasible races don't fit with our mystery bird's plumage either, with at the very least none ever displaying such brightly coloured edges to the wing feathers. Desert Warbler too had a single entry, not a bad decision considering I had just come back from seeing them in the Middle East but whilst the body colouration might be compatible, those tertials would never be found on the entirely plain tertials of a Desert Warbler. This left two species, two out of three I had hoped would be suggested. Two out of three ain't bad! Those two were Spectacled Warbler and Whitethroat, with one receiving thirty votes and the other only a single, but in which order? Frankly, arguments could be made for either bird on plumage colour or indeed on jizz but, and it's a big but, those tertials hold the key and is where the plot really unfolds. The shape of those blackish centres to the tertials can be clearly seen to be rather wide and rounded at the tips, making the rusty edge appear distinctly and evenly curved in shape. Those of Spectacled Warbler are really noticeably different. They are much narrower and are pointed in shape and, as we can be fairly sure we are viewing the tertials at a good angle for assessment in the image, we can be equally sure they don't fit. So, thirty entrants were right, it was a (juvenile) Whitethroat.
Whitethroat, Holdens Farm, Horwich Moors, August 2010 (Ian McKerchar)
Mystery Bird 22
Okay, a wader. One hundred percent so far! That was where it ended though, as eight waders were suggested as answers so let's start knocking them off.
Avocet (1 vote)- nope, I really didn't see that one coming! Erm, our mystery bird has little short legs and isn't black and white, 'nuff said ☺.
Greenshank (1 vote)- those little short legs again and seemingly uniform brownish upperparts should be enough to exclude that one.
Knot (1 vote)- atleast it's got the little short legs of our mystery bird, but brownish upperparts and completely clear white underparts? Nope.
Grey Phalarope (1 vote)- uniform brown upperparts? Obvious blackish 'patch' on the breast? Doesn't fit I'm afraid.
Ringed Plover (2 votes)- clearly getting warmer here. Our mystery wader clearly (as they're well lit for assessment) has greyish legs though and Ringed Plover don't.
Lesser Sand Plover (2 votes)- ah, the old "he'll have just photographed a load of them in Qatar" technique of assessment eh! In actual fact, not too bad a choice in the end but the legs are comparatively (against the body size) too short for that species and the obvious black on the chest doesn't go with it either.
Little Ringed Plover (9 votes)- red hot, but no cigar! A very close call but the legs are grey (not pinkish, check your monitor configuration ☺) and that black breast 'patch' is indeed very 'black' (consider that it is being 'stretched' by the bird stretching the neck in this pose and compare the actual hue against the brown of the upperparts) and so we can safely assume it would have to be a male. Were it a male then the black breast band, even in this pose, would appear to be continuous across the breast and not simply as a 'patch' .
So, a small, rather short legged plover, uniform brownish on the upperparts, clear white on the underparts and with a black 'patch' on the breast sides only, whilst some entrants (with better monitors?) felt sure they could make out a warmer brown due to the head. It can indeed only be a male Kentish Plover and yes, they get hundreds in Qatar!
Kentish Plover, Qatar, October 2010 (Ian McKerchar)
Sixteen entrants managed to identify both mystery birds correctly, so well done to the longest list for some considerable time, Adrian Dancy, Mike Cooper, Tim Wilcox, Neil Calbrade, Henry Cook, Steve Suttill, Nick Green, John Tymon, Paul Brown, Jen Wilkinson, Sherry Allen-Pearson, Phil Greenwood, Ian Campbell, Mike Hirst, Iain Johnson and Pete Kinsella. Frankly though, whether you got them both or none, a big thank you for giving it a go because that's what it's all about.
There was no change in our leader board then and our most northerly competitor of Paul Brown continues to lead the field. He only has two points more than his closest two rivals though, of Neil Calbrade and John Tymon, but so long as he gets atleast one more correct answer next month the copy of the 2009 County Bird Report and more importantly the right to brag of his achievement to all those sheep on Orkney, will be his.
Have a great Christmas y'all.