2013 and beyond

It's pretty simple: the most birds seen or heard from one's yard during 2013 will be the "winner". Want in? O.k....then do it despite that.

2013 promises to be a lot less mean but still a carbon-free birding competition, even if slightly less exciting than a MEGA x EPIC hybrid.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baikal Teal...not in my garden

Hi all,
Not much to report from the garden, the best being a male Blackcap today, which may or may not be the same as the bird last seen in January, and a flyover Eurasian Goldfinch again a few days ago.
Last Friday (19th), a male Baikal Teal was found at Tacumshin, Co. Wexford by a little-known local birder called Killian Mullarney. I was busy that day, doing Atlas fieldwork in probably the least productive 10km square in Co. Cork, and fancied a lie-in the next morning, but I got a text from a friend at around 10am, and by 11am we were on our way. Having gotten lost briefly, we arrived to find that the bird wasn't handily lined up, but we soon located it and got decent views...this was just as well, as, after 5 minutes or so, the bird flew off, and we never relocated it (it was seen the next day, however, and subsequently). 'Back-up' birds included a Green-winged Teal, a Long-billed Dowitcher (found while we were there), huge numbers of wildfowl (three swan species, including my first Bewick's Swans for a few years (they are very rare in Cork nowadays, only seen a flock of 7 ever here), hundreds of Pintail and Shoveler etc) and a Hen Harrier. We missed the lingering Glossy Ibis, but others saw this also.
Now, it is very possible that this bird was an escape...the species is held in captivity, though apparently it is difficult to breed in captivity...and, indeed, for many years, most records in western Europe were tainted with the escape stigma. However, isotopic analysis has as good as proven that a bird in the early 20th century in Britain, and also a bird shot in Denmark as recently as 2005, were genuinely wild: the juvenile feathers had isotopes consistent with having been grown in Siberia, and the 2nd gen feathers consistent with having been grown in western Europe. As a result, and also due to a record from 2002 having been accepted to Category A in Britain, any record of Baikal Teal at the right time of year that doesn't seem like an escape should at least be given due respect: even if this bird fails to make Category A here in Ireland, it is being taken seriously. It is unringed and unpinioned...


  1. A hell of a bird any way you slice it. That species has long been on the top of my "most-wanted duck" list. Congrats on an amazing twitch, and nice job on the LBDO and BESW too!

  2. Yeah, Sean, Baikal is a cracker, and this is coming from someone not overly fond of duck (though, if pressed, I actually like most duck species individually, and large mixed groups of various species, like on Saturday, are quite exhilirating...maybe my 'antipathy' towards duck stems more from them being almost all there is when the migrant passerine season dies off in November, especially with the demise of rubbish tips for gulls).

  3. cool analysis of isotopes to postulate origin- too bad there isn't more of that type of thing here. a perfect candidate in Mich. (and much of interior NA) is Barnacle Goose. All MI records have been rejected out of hand, even when ID was not an issue. However in the mid 2000s a Barnacle Goose was shot in Ontario, which turned out to have been banded in the w. Pal! This obviously proves that at least some of the lot are real vagrants, but we still have the problem that captive origin is probably still the most likely explanation for most of them here. It would be neat if such a bird was seen to drop a feather or two, which were then analyzed for isotopes. A positive hit with the isotopic signature of the Palearctic would be pretty compelling evidence to accept.

  4. Regarding Category A, this from the IRBC website (http://www.irbc.ie):

    '•Category A
    Species that have been recorded in an apparently natural state in Ireland at least once since 1st January 1950.
    •Category B
    Species that have been recorded in an apparently natural state in Ireland at least once up to 31st December 1949, but have not been recorded subsequently.
    •Category C1
    Species that, although originally introduced by man, have established feral breeding populations in Ireland which apparently maintain themselves without necessary recourse to further introduction.
    •Category C2
    Species that have occurred, but are considered to have originated from established naturalised populations outside Ireland.
    •Category D1
    Species that would otherwise appear in Categories A or B except that there is a reasonable doubt that they have ever occurred in a natural state.
    •Category D2
    Species that have arrived through ship or other human assistance.
    •Category D3
    Species that have only ever been found dead on the tideline.
    •Category D4
    Species that would otherwise appear in Category C1 except that their feral populations may or may not be self-supporting.
    •Category E
    Species that have been recorded as introductions, transportees or escapes from captivity.'

  5. I like the perspective.

    Why the 1 Jan 1950 division? Is there a back story to that?

  6. Dave- yes, until they all find out that no one checked to make sure it wasn't an F2 Blue-winged X Brewsters backcross!

  7. Blue-winged Warbler is still the rarest bird (in a WP context) that I have twitched in Ireland, saw it the day it was found. How would one ID an F2 Blue-winged x Brewster's...?

  8. I'm only partially joking, Harry. Basically, the rule of thumb with hybrid swarms such as Golden-winged Warbler X Blue-winged Warbler (1000s of hybrids are out there, and they do mate with pure parental types) is to make sure that all features match perfectly for the species in question. Make sure there's no hint of the GWWA chin/throat patch, that the black loral patch is no bigger than usual or extending into the auriculars, etc. I'd also look carefully at the yellow underparts for any white patches breaking through, and for any hint that the GC have too much lateral fringing or yellow coloration (features tending toward GWWA). We have recently noticed photos of apparently pure GWWA which upon close inspection aren't quite right. Of course, there's no way short of genetic work to know what these individuals' genotypes look like, so we have to stick with phenotype until then. Are there pics of the Ireland bird available?

  9. http://www.surfbirds.com/Features/bluewwarb.html

    I was aware of hybrids and backcrosses, even in 2000, but wasn't too sure of just how much like BWWA a backcross could be. Going by the phenotype, bearing in mind that I have only seen this one bird and have no other experience of what they should look like, I think it's fairly good...but I WOULD say that...

  10. Wow- a true MEGA. Awesome. As far as phenotype, it looks good at first glance to me- I don't see any obvious problems. Interestingly, we don't see many of these is such a dull basic plumage, as they are one of our earliest breeders to depart the breeding range (which I live in), usually gone by Sep 1 and for sure by Sep 10.


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