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Fallow Deer, Rutland

Fallow Deer, Rutland

This morning the temperature rose to 12 degrees, so we visited Pickworth Great Wood in the hope of finding an early butterfly. The butterflies knew better; the first flowering blackthorn is actually six weeks behind last year.

As with other Rutland woods which I have visited recently, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were active but there was no sign of Lesser Spotted.

Hazel flowers, Rutland

Hazel flowers, Rutland

Bluethroat, Lincolnshire

Bluethroat, Lincolnshire

Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. (Thucydides)

For those who believe in democracy, this is one of the worst things which can happen. Normal communication is undermined, along with trust in the institutions upon which we rely. Yet this is precisely what we face in both Britain and America: academic endeavour and the pursuit of truth are being replaced by wilful misrepresentation. Those who oppose the abuse of power are accused of the very actions which they condemn. The next logical step will be to replace a free press with state-run media.

On a slightly lighter note, here is some real news. There really is a Bluethroat wintering in south Lincolnshire, because the climate really is changing.

Blue Rock Thrush, Stow, January 2016

Blue Rock Thrush, Stow, January 2017

Stow-on-the-Wold on a freezing January day is not the first place one might associate with Blue Rock Thrush (which I normally see on warm rocky slopes). Nor is a suburban back garden typical habitat, even allowing for the known use of olive groves by wintering birds. Yet these are precisely the circumstances in which I saw the much-discussed Stow (Gloucs) bird yesterday.

During the period of observation (a good hour) it spent most of its time sitting quite still in small trees. Occasionally it dropped out of sight into the garden, possibly to feed. Compared with local resident birds around the garden it was noticeably less active.

Whist on the subject of Blue Rock Thrush records, here’s a reminder of the 1996 bird (from BW 9: 298). For individual observers, decisions about whether or not to list birds of questionable origin are of relatively minor importance. For county and national committees, however, a cautious approach is desirable.

Blue Rock Thrush, Greece

Blue Rock Thrush, Greece

BRT, Herts, August 1996

Blue Rock Thrush, Herts, August 1996

Chiffchaff, Rutland

Chiffchaff, Rutland

This winter at least four Chiffchaffs are wintering at Geeston STW, where a Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis) was present last winter (see https://rutlandbutterflies.wordpress.com/tag/siberian-chiffchaff/ ).

Three of them look like typical collybita (below), but one is different and either confusing or interesting depending on your point of view (left). Its upperparts are noticeably more grey/brown, the yellowish tones in the supercilium are much more subtle, and the underparts are whiter with pale yellow undertail-coverts.

Its appearance does not correspond with our understanding of tristis, yet it is sufficiently different from typical collybita to command attention. I have seen a few birds like this previously, but remain unsure what they are. They might be intergrades, or they might be Scandinavian Chiffchaffs (abietinus), the status of which needs re-evaluation.

Any informed comments will be welcome.

Chiffchaff, Rutland

Chiffchaff, Rutland 

Meadow Pipit, Fair Isle - how often have you seen the pale yellow outer axillaries?

Meadow Pipit, Fair Isle – how often have you seen the pale yellow outer axillaries?

During my stay on Fair Isle this autumn I was fortunate to see no fewer than seven species of pipit. The most numerous, and perhaps for that reason the least appreciated by some birders, was Meadow Pipit.

Meadow Pipits are quite variable, to the extent that there were misidentifications as both Red-throated and Pechora by visitors on Fair Isle. Although the 8th edition of the British List recognised whistleri, its validity (in common with that of some other currently recognised endemic British taxa) should be re-assessed. There may well be a good case for treating Meadow Pipit as a variable monotypic species.

Migrant Meadow Pipits include birds from Iceland and Scandinavia, and many British breeders migrate to the Bay of Biscay and Iberian Peninsula. In L&R, three-figure counts in autumn are not unusual and 1,125 flew south over Deans Lane on 21 September 2003.

Time spent watching Meadow Pipits is time spent well.

Meadow Pipit, Fair Isle

Meadow Pipit, Fair Isle

 

Isabelline, Shetland

Isabelline, Shetland

Whitearse = wheatear. Our Anglo-Saxon forebears had a pithy way with words: I’m told that we have them to thank for many of the four-letter words in English.

Before this extraordinary autumn, Isabelline Wheatear remained a genuine rarity. We certainly wouldn’t have predicted one inland in Cambridgeshire. My guess is that we should make the most of them.

For good measure, here’s the striking male Desert Wheatear present recently on the ‘desert’ in north Norfolk. Those who saw four wheatears in a morning earlier this month in south Shetland had a real treat.

Desert, Norfolk

Desert, Norfolk

Continental Robins, Fair Isle (adult, left, and first-winter)

Continental Robins, Fair Isle (adult, left, and first-winter)

Presumed ‘continental’ Robins have been recorded in L&R, so are worth looking out for in late autumn.

As these two from Fair Isle show, they have distinctly greyish tones on the crown and nape, are less contrastingly brown on the mantle, and have paler orange breasts than resident ‘British’ birds.

If Robins were rare, they would doubtless attract more attention.