Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Continental Stonechat? Maybe?

Tonight I had a walk down to the Howick Burn moth and back by the shore with the intent of looking for a Black Redstart on patch. A couple have been seen in the county today and these east winds might have brought some more.

As I walked from Seahouses Farm, south along the old 'tee-pee track', I flushed an odd looking Stonechat. It was a very brightly marked male, and quite unlike the few local birds we have here. It behaved differently too, being very flighty indeed, not allowing me anywhere near it whereas the local birds feed as close as garden Robins on most days.

Our locals, Saxicola torquata hibernans, are very brownish bodied with the chestnut breast reaching all the way down to the lower belly and up to the flanks. This bird showed characteristics similar to the Continental Stonechat Saxicola torquata rubicola . This form is not officially recognised on the British list, not becasue it doesnt occur here, in fact it is believed to have bred in the UK on more than one occasion, but because many authorities dont recognise them as seperate forms at all. Only the most distinctive specimens seem to stand out.  Compare my bird to these on Birding Frontiers...

Today's bird showed the following 'pro' rubicola features -

Broad extensive white collar patches, making the black head seem almost capped in appearance.
Very black upperparts.
Orange breast restricted to the upper centre, with the flanks and lower belly being white.
Upper tail coverts were white.
The white inner greater coverts were clean and extensive in flight.

Unfortunately the bird kept low so I didnt see the underwing at all.

Although there is no way to be sure, I do think this bird is at least a migrant and not a local breeder. We never get them looking like this as early as this. Its behaviour too was more migrant like, being very flighty and dashing off long distances.

Its not going to get the twitchers going but it brightened my evening, and was quite thought provoking.

I didnt find any Black Redstarts....

Possible Continental Stonechat S t rubicola. Typical view this evening. Note capped appearance, restricted orange in breast with white flanks. 

Two truly awful flight shots but if you squint you can see white upper tail covs that were more obvious in life.

A crop of the fist shot. Compare with a local male Stonechat St hibernans, below. See the brownish less advanced look, more extensive orange chestnut below covering all underparts except the undertail coverts. Easier to approach too.

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