Leucistic juvenile Starling revisited

More from Phil Jackman on the ‘leucistic’ juvenile Starling in his Kettering garden.  It – or one like it – is back, this time having moulted much more of its juvenile plumage during the intervening three weeks and, as suggested in the previous post on the topic, it appears that the bird’s ‘leucism’ may be/is age-related.

'Leucistic' juvenile Starling, Kettering, 28th July 2014 (Phil Jackman)

‘Leucistic’ juvenile Starling, Kettering, 28th July 2014 (Phil Jackman)

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Juvenile Garganey

Thought I’d post some video of the Summer Leys Garganey. Never a lame duck but not one which stands out to anything like the extent of a fine spring drake and this juvenile has a not particularly well-marked face pattern compared to many. This is because the dark horizontal cheek bar is reduced to a blob on the ear coverts and the pale loral spot is rather diffuse. It’s a juvenile – as opposed to a female – aged by the neat, fresh feather fringes giving it an immaculate appearance, the finely-streaked neck (adult females are more blotchy here and on the upperparts), the brown, streaky belly – not visible here, but hinted at where the flanks disappear below the water level – (females have a whitish, unmarked belly) and the warm, almost rusty-brown hue to the plumage compared to the colder tones of adults.

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White Stuff

Albino House Sparrow – or at least a white one, anyway. It appears not to have pink eyes but this juvenile is from a small colony at Easton on the Hill. Comparatively rare but not without precedent. Many thanks to Jeff Davies for the image.

'Albino' House Sparrow, Easton on the Hill, July 2014 (Jeff Davies)

‘Albino’ House Sparrow, Easton on the Hill, July 2014 (Jeff Davies)

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The Week in Focus: 19th to 25th July 2014

With high pressure sitting over the country for much of the week the warm spell continued as further signs of autumn became evident.

The two Ruddy Shelducks continued to be reported from Pitsford Res until the week’s end, while a Garganey remained at Stanwick GP on the same date, another was at Summer Leys LNR on 25th and last week’s female Goldeneye was still at Stanford Res on 20th with the long-stayer at Earls Barton GP on 25th.

Garganey, Summer Leys LNR, 25th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Garganey, Summer Leys LNR, 25th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Single Ospreys were fishing at Pitsford Res on 22nd and 25th and Stanford Res on 24th, while two visited Hollowell Res on 25th along with a Marsh Harrier.

There was no substantial increase in passage waders which included single Ringed Plovers at Stanwick GP on 21st and Hollowell Res on 25th, while six Little Ringed Plovers were counted at Summer Leys LNR on 19th, four were at Stanwick GP on 21st and five at Hollowell Res on 25th.

Common Snipe were limited to two at Summer Leys LNR on 20th, where an Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit was present on 25th, up to 3 Green Sandpipers remained at Stanwick GP, the same number was at Broadholme SWT (Ditchford GP) on 22nd and two were at Daventry CP and one at Hollowell Res on 25th.  Single Wood Sandpipers – the first of the autumn’s few – were at Summer Leys LNR briefly on 19th and Hollowell Res on 25th and Common Sandpipers remained very much in evidence with up to five at Hollowell Res on 25th, three at both Stanwick and Summer Leys LNR and singles at Broadholme, Daventry CP and Pitsford Res.

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 20th July 2014 (Clive Bowley)

Common Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 20th July 2014 (Clive Bowley)

The first of the autumn’s Mediterranean Gulls – a smart juvenile – was at Daventry CP on the morning of 25th and another (or the same) visited Pitsford Res during the evening, while numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls continued to climb with 32 at Stanwick GP on 19th and smaller numbers elsewhere, including one at Pitsford Res on 19th, two there on 25th and one and Daventry CP on the same date.

Two Turtle Doves remained at Harrington AF until at least 22nd, while a Ring-necked Parakeet visited a garden in Denton on 21st-23rd and one was in Abington Park, Northampton on 24th and Grasshopper Warblers were still singing at Earls Barton GP on 20th and at Harrington AF on 22nd and 25th.

Grasshopper Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 20th July 2014 (Alan Coles)

Grasshopper Warbler, Earls Barton GP, 20th July 2014 (Alan Coles)

The latter site produced a Whinchat and a Common Redstart on 22nd with two of the latter species there the following day and one on 25th, while a Black Redstart was seen briefly in gardens in Long Buckby on 19th and two Crossbills flew east at Harrington on 25th.

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The Week in Focus: 12th to 18th July 2014

A predominantly dry week with temperatures starting to build to the high twenties in the latter part in advance of wet weather systems crossing the channel from the near continent.

One of last week’s ‘Cackling’ Geese (or a hybrid) – apparently there had been two – remained at Daventry CP until at least 14th and the two Ruddy Shelducks continued to be prominent in the dam area of Pitsford Res all week, while a Garganey remained at Stanwick GP. A female Red-crested Pochard at Pitsford Res on 12th-13th had been joined by two more by 15th and two flew east at Stanwick GP on the same date, while the Earls Barton female Goldeneye was again on Mary’s Lake on 13th and another visited Stanford Res on 17th.

The latter site also produced Northamptonshire’s fifth-ever Glossy Ibis during the afternoon of 15th. True to form, it did not stay, arriving from the north and circling the reservoir before continuing south. This week’s Ospreys were singles at Brixworth on 13th and Hollowell Res on 18th, otherwise it was a lean week for raptors.

Waders continued to trickle through with a Ringed Plover and six Little Ringed Plovers at Hollowell Res on 18th, while top counts of the latter were nine at Stanwick on 13th and seven at Summer Leys on the same date. On 12th, Summer Leys also produced a Little Stint – uncommon in the county in recent years and exceptional in July. A Black-tailed Godwit was in a field adjacent to Stanwick GP on 14th and a Greenshank visited Hollowell Res on 18th while up to 7 Green Sandpipers remained at Stanwick all week with smaller numbers at Daventry CP, Hollowell Res and Summer Leys. Common Sandpipers topped the bill for numbers this week with a single flock of sixteen arriving at Stanwick GP on the morning of 15th, six were at Hollowell Res on 18th and up to four at Summer Leys on 13th. The leucistic Black-headed Gull appeared again at Stanwick GP on 14th with the Yellow-legged Gull count peaking at twenty-seven there on the same date, while smaller numbers elsewhere included three at Pitsford Res on 15th and singles there and at Hollowell Res on 18th.

Harrington AF continued to host up to two Turtle Doves throughout the week, while two Grasshopper Warblers were still singing there on 15th with singles of Common Redstart and Whinchat there on the same date

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Which Cackler?

Prompted by the last post on the subject, Minimal Interest, Joan Chaplin sent me these images of a Cackling Goose at Foxholes Fisheries, Crick from 23rd April 2012.

Taverner's Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

Taverner’s Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

This bird arrived with visiting Canada Geese and was subsequently thought to be of the race minima. In common with the Daventry individual it shows a number of features which are inconsistent with that race: too large, too long-necked, the body is more elongated, the head not square enough and the bill – though small, is the wrong shape, i.e. too long.

Taverner's Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

Taverner’s Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

Taverner's Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

Taverner’s Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin)

All features are, however, spot-on for taverneri, Taverner’s Cackling Goose, right down to the thin, broken throat line which almost divides the two white cheek patches.

Taverner's Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin). The broken throat line is just visible.

Taverner’s Cackling Goose, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 23rd April 2012 (Joan Chaplin). The broken throat line is just visible.

Note how the bird’s size and shape appear to vary with pose and camera angle! While this western USA bird was surely an escape, Taverner’s has been recorded in Ireland in the recent past.

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Minimal Interest

That’s what this Cackling Goose at Daventry CP today is likely to elicit. Apparently it has been present two weeks among the local Canada Geese and, given its range along the western seaboard of North America, and its time and place of occurrence, it is almost certainly an escape – although it is a long-distance migrant!

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima?, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose was split from Canada Goose as long ago as 2004 and four races are recognised: hutchinsii (‘Richardson’s Cackling Goose’), taverneri (‘Taverner’s Cackling Goose’), leucopareia (‘Aleutian Cackling Goose’) and minima (‘Ridgway’s Cackling Goose’). Each race is identifiable on a combination of structure and plumage characters and the individual at Daventry most closely resembles minima in plumage but it can sometimes appear a little larger than would be expected and the head shape is not quite right, minima should show a squarer head profile and shorter bill than this bird. So is it another race or a hybrid?

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima?, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

It’s between half and two-thirds the size of the accompanying Canada Geese, darker, shorter-necked and much smaller-billed. The main plumage difference is the all dark brown breast and belly, with the black at the base of the neck ‘fuzzing’ into it.

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima?, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Richardson’s Cackling Goose is similar in size and can be almost as dark but has a clear cut neckline with normally a narrow white base dividing it from the brown breast.

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii minima?, Daventry CP 13th July 2014 (Mike Alibone)

Cackling Goose is not on the British List though a number of records have been accepted by BBRC. The Daventry individual is a nice bird and well worth a look, even though it must surely be an escape …

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