December twitching

The end of the year is getting closer, there are still some twitchable birds around. On our way back from Kiruna, news came with certain sightings of a Dwarf Bittern on Furteventura. We found cheap direct flights from Stockholm direct to Fuerteventura making the choice of going for that gem of a bird easy. The bird was found by Daniel Kratzer, and when we got there Arne Torkler was waiting for us at the site of the bird. We started to scan the valley and soon found the stunner. What a bird!

African Dwarf Bittern
African Dwarf Bittern

An additional reason for us returning to Fuerteventura was that the unsubstantiated rumours of Allen’s Gallinule on Fuerteventura were still buzzing around. We heard those rumours on our visit to Fuerteventura just a couple of days ago but were unable to get hold of any actual information. This time we had some slightly better information, we never found the Gallinule though.

There is a really fucked up situation on the Canaries as to reporting of rare birds. There were Allen’s Gallinules on Furteventura on our first visit, and possibly also on our second visit but the sightings are kept secret by local birders for personal reasons – shared to select birders only. Kindergarten mature and I urge all involved to get your act together and start behaving like adults.

Next up was Pine Buntings in Switzerland, we flew to Milan, rented a car and drove an hour north to the village of Locarno where the surrounding fields should hold a number of wintering Pine Buntings. This is a species we were craving badly, we searched for it in the Urals where we had an entire field of hybrids, Yellowhammer x Pine Bunting, some with just a single yellow feather, but others, like this one, almost equal share of both.

Yellowhammer x Pine Bunting from The Urals
Yellowhammer x Pine Bunting from The Urals

Once on site on the fields, we were joined by young local Swiss birders, Samuel Büttler and Jaro Schacht. The buntings turned out to be hard to find, and we searched the area hard until we finally connected with a female.

Pine Bunting
Pine Bunting

We wanted pictures of a male though, especially since Swedish club300 disqualified all sightings of female Pine Buntings (this bird would not be accepted in Sweden!!) Later in the afternoon, a fully mature male came flying in and we got short views in the scope, it took off and we never got any photos of it.

Next up was Lisbon, and a returning American Herring Gull in the port of Sesimbra. When we arrived at the port it felt almost impossible to find an AMHG inside the chaos of Gulls.

Gull chaos in Sesimbra
Gull chaos in Sesimbra

Thousands of gulls, mostly Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the area. We started to scan the roofs, and later in the afternoon things started to become more manageable with Gulls roosting on the roofs. The AMHG stood out, with its light mantle and clear pink legs.

American Herring Gull
American Herring Gull
American Herring Gull
American Herring Gull

We had been reading up on the characteristics in Peter Adriaens famous paper Identification of adult American Herring Gull and – well it’s not a walk in the park. The wing pattern on this bird appears to look just right though.

Wing Pattern AMHG
Wing Pattern AMHG

This was tick 760, and at the time down there in the port of Sesimbra it felt like maybe this was the last tick of the year.

Our friend Pedro Nicolau has been urging us to tick off two Category E birds in Portugal. We already ticked one Category E in Portugal earlier, Scaly-breasted Munia, and according to Pedro, both Blue-crowned Parakeet and Pin-tailed Whydah will be moved into Category C soon. Thus we went Cat-E ticking the following day.

Clue-crowned Parakeet
Blue-crowned Parakeet
Pin-tailed Whydah
Pin-tailed Whydah

So together with Javan Myna from Kuwait, we have 4 possible armchair-ticks to look forward to.

This last journey was strenuous and it felt really good to go home this time, especially since our options were slim and not especially attractive.

  • Go back to Switzerland for an alleged Eastern Yellow Wagtail (going to need DNA)
  • Go back to Egypt and look for Goliath Heron without optics.
  • Go back to The Azores and a still lingering Green Heron. Flights sucked big time.
  • Go back to Kuwait and the Grey-throated Martin there, found by our friend Markus Craig. It would be fun to revisit there, but it doesn’t feel right with expensive 24h flights for a single bird.

 

4 thoughts on “December twitching”

  1. Is it possible that the American Herring Gull is actually Thayer’s (Iceland) Gull? It looks round headed and small billed. Eye color is better for Herring but variable in Thayer’s. Black in primaries not very extensive and mostly in outer webs and pale under primaries. Could be artifact of photos but worth mentioning.

  2. Hi guys,
    When and where did you see the putative Eastern yellow wagtail in Switzerland?
    I’m an italian birder that live few chilometers south from Locarno area.
    Thanks in advance
    Luca

  3. Happy 2018 guys, I guess you enjoy some rest now…
    Congrats for the score and thanks for all your reports,we gonna miss that! Please give us a final statement, a feedback a few days after your big year is done. What kind of record is your 761 species? How do you feel now? What’s next :-) ?
    Good to remember your victory dance after the Sinaï Rosefinch of Wadi En Salvadori…
    Take good care,
    Benoit

  4. Congrats!
    I’ve enjoyed following your Big Year. Thank you for all the blogposts, travel adventures and fantastic photos. Well done!

    -Anders

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