Thursday, March 30, 2017

Recent rambling

Last few weeks have been really busy but not really with birds. At least not living birds. Last week I spent a few days in Frankfurt - my 97 yo grandmother Helene had passed away. May she rest in peace - she was a brave and strong woman. She had a tough life, that included surviving WW2 and starting new lives in too many countries,; her strong character and will is truly inspiring to my family. Here she is with her brother Hermann in 1932, when she was 13:

While organising her funeral, I found some time to go with my brother to Senckenberg Museum of Natural History. When I last visited there in July 2016 I discovered a potentially interesting wheatear. I did not take full measurements back then, so this time I took the full biometric set. Hopefully soon its identity will be determined.

Black Wheatear (top) and mystery wheatear (bottom)

I took the opportunity to look at some more nightjars. I am involved in a large nightjar phylogeny project with Prof. Martin Collinson from University of Aberdeen. One of the things we want to check is Red-necked Nightjar phylogeny. The two subspecies - ruficollis (Iberia) and desertorum (N Africa) look strikingly different, and possibly have different vocalisations too.  This is a simplistic morphological comparison - males, ruficollis (left two) and desertorum (right two):

The last few days have been all about Champions of the Flyway. Sadly, I could not go this year, but did my best to support the project from here. It was yet again a fantastic race and event, well done to the organisers, teams, donors and supporters worldwide.


Yesterday morning I had a frustrating experience. After schoolrun I walked with my dog in Heigham Park that is near our house. I heard from the bottom of the park a 'funny' Chiffchaff song - 3-4 sequences. The soft initial notes sounded good for Iberian Chiff, but I couldn't hear the terminal trill from that distance. I approached the bird and got my phone ready to sound record, but it went silent and I did not see or hear it again. Eventually, I cannot exclude a 'funny' normal Chiffchaff, so will leave it like that.

In about 10 days I am going away for fieldwork in Spain and Portugal, so expect an increase in blogging frequency!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

#invismig kind of night

Last night was pretty special here in Norwich. Land-locked Norwich does not experience much active migration. But somehow, moon and weather conditions last night (and in the night ebfore too) were just right, and lead to active nocturnal migration over the city.

After dark I was at home busy with routine family duties. But when messages on Twitter and on our local Whatsapp group started pouring in, I deserted my parental roles and headed out to listen.

I immediately started picking stuff out of the dark. At first I was joined by my son Uri, then he moved in and I stayed out. I also communicated with Dougal that lives across the road from my house, so we helped each other out increase our garden year lists. We whatsapped or tweeted out everything we heard, to help others in our friendly little competiton - Norwich Garden Bird List. Most dominant call of the night was Redwing. They were calling almost constantly. During the two hours I listened last night, I must have heard more than 50 calls. One can only guess (or use a radar...) how many birds actually passed over central Norwich last night. It is very cool to imagine these Redwings over the coast 30 minutes later, and then arrive in Norway the next morning after a night of migration over the North Sea. The Magic of Migration.
Especially in the earlier part of the evening there was very active movement of ducks. It is cool how vocal they are on the wing! Wigeons were especially vocal, but last night I also heard Teal and Mallard. I am not sure whether these birds were true migrants, or just local birds moving between forgaing and roost sites. 
Later on at night, myself and other observers (listeners) had nice shorebird movement. I had four shorebird species last night (!), three of them new to the garden list: singles of Ringed Plover, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Snipe. Over UEA there were also Green Sand and Curlew. Again, I am not sure if these are active migrants or just birds moving around between wetlands. The nearest wetland to my home that might hold these species (Earlham Marshes) is about two miles away, so I was really happy to get these.

Other birds calling last night were several Grey Herons, a Moorhen - another garden tick (check their funny calls on xeno-canto), and the local Tawny Owl singing from a park about 300 m away from my park.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Ranthambhore cleanup - mammals

Probably my last blogpost about India. Here are some images of mammals from Ranthambhore I had no time to process earlier. Ranthambhore is fantastic for mammals. The abundance of deer, wild boar and other types of tiger food explains why there are so many predators there. Driving around the park, you do see many hundreds of deer every day. Commonest species is Spotted Deer:

Sambar is tiger's favourite prey. Their eyesight is poor and they're not very fast runners like Spotted Deer. They often are seen wading in lakes.

Nilgai is an impressive beast, reminded me of the African Eland antelope

Wild Boar

Black-faced Langurs are very common in the park

They often adopt the contemplative posture

Not easy to photograph with their extremely long tail and a 500mm...

 Black-tailed Mongoose

Interesting shape to their pupils

Indian Palm Squirrel

And of course there was this mammal too, our main target in India. Arrowhead.

Check this great video by Amir: