SEPTEMBER 2011'S MYSTERY BIRD ANSWERS
So, another round of mystery birds and another month of head scratching of which 26 of you happily delved into. A big thanks to you all. These were no easy mystery birds either (are they ever I hear you ask?) and despite all the features you'd ever need to identify them being present as always, they were deliberately chosen for particular reasons. You think you hate me know, just wait until you've read on...
Mystery Bird 17
All but one entrant voted for some species of wildfowl, which was good as it was indeed a duck of some kind. Other than this though nine other species were entered and clearly there was much confusion as to what species it actually was. The mystery bird possesses some seemingly distinctive characteristics though. Overall its upperparts appear a very uniform dark brown and the wings display broad white tips to the secondaries and something of a very restricted bluish speculum. The flanks look mottled warmer, more reddish brown, the belly whitish and its head does look distinctly grey. No doubt many of you hunted through a field guide to draw some inspiration, and why not, but no doubt many of you drew a blank there too. Why so? Well, if you consulted the birders Bible, the Collins field guide, this species isn't even portrayed in flight action! Incorrect answers involved Ruddy Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Pintail (twice), Garganey, Pochard, Gadwall (also twice) and Teal, not forgetting our Black-necked Grebe too. All the aforementioned, for one reason or another, don't fit our mystery bird, so what the hell is it? It is in fact a female Mandarin ☺! I also received a single entry for Wood Duck too and one could quite easily ask how you'd go about excluding that from our mystery bird off this view alone but the answer is much easier than you might think. Wood Duck isn't on the official BOU list and so I couldn't use it even if I'd have wanted to (check those competition rules boys and girls).
Fourteen entrants recognised our mystery bird for the Mandarin it was though and well done to you all.
Mandarin, Rutland Water, 21.08.11 (Adrian Dancy)
Mystery Bird 18
If I thought that pesky Mandarin put the cat amongst the pigeons then this mystery bird put the Tiger amongst the Mandarins, for there have been few Manchester Birding mystery birds which have created so much confusion. Twelve species were thought to match those features on show but their diversity was bewildering. Tree Sparrow, Skylark, Corn Bunting (x3), Rose-coloured Starling, Aquatic Warbler, House Sparrow (x2), Lanceolated Warbler, Dunnock (x3), Grasshopper Warbler (x2), Lesser Redpoll, Little Bunting and Sedge Warbler. In whittling them down let's look at what, fairly quickly, eliminates them:
Tree Sparrow- Primaries too long, tail too short, warm rufous rump.
Skylark- Too many primary tips on display, tail too short, no white outer tail feathers.
Corn Bunting- Primaries too long, tail too short, warm rufous rump.
Rose-coloured Starling- Warm rufous rump, mantle feathers with obvious contrasting dark centres.
Aquatic Warbler- Tail too dark, warm rufous rump, lacks obvious yellow-buff mantle stripes (which I'd probably just expect to be able to see in this image).
House Sparrow- Primaries too long, tail too short, warm rufous rump.
Lanceolated Warbler- Primaries too long, tail too dark, warm rufous rump.
Dunnock- Primaries too long, tail too short.
Grasshopper Warbler- Warm rufous rump, remiges edged too yellow, primaries too long.
Lesser Redpoll- Tail wrong shape (note outer tail feathers shorter than inners), legs fleshy pink.
Little Bunting- Primaries too short, tertials edged yellowish (check the distinctive inner pattern on the tertials of Little Bunting), warm rufous rump.
Sedge Warbler- Well, I used that in last months mystery birds so I'm not going to use it again now am I? Am I? Sorry folks, yes I am!
Yes, in order to keep you all on your toes, keep you all guessing, this mystery bird was indeed a Sedge Warbler. How many ignored the features infront of them just because they felt I wouldn't use the same species in consecutive months? Never let your guard down, never...
Nine entrants went with what they saw, so well done to Neil Calbrade, Nick Green, John Frankland, Paul Brown, Chris Knight, John Tymon, Henry Cook, Damian Young and Pete Kinsella.
Sedge Warbler, Elton Reservoir, 31.08.11 (Adrian Dancy)
Seven entrants managed the double this round, no easy feat, so good work to Neil Calbrade, Paul Brown, John Tymon, Chris Knight, Henry Cook, Damian Young and Pete Kinsella.
There's no change at the top of the leader board again this month with Paul Brown and Pete Kinsella locked in mortal bird identification combat, but there's always next month. Keep at it and I promise they'll be different species next month, or indeed any month before too ☺.