Saturday, 18 October 2014

Siberian Stonechat, Titchfield Haven NNR - 18th October 2014

 After ringing yesterday I bumped into a local birder who casually mentioned a rumour of a possible Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus on the meadow at Titchfield Haven. At the time the message seemed so vague that I didn't really pay much attention, and then my attention was diverted by the colour-ringed Med Gull. Later in the afternoon I texted Simon Ingram to find out whether he had heard anything, which he had not, but we both decided to look into it. A little later on another local birder, Dave Ryves, headed down to the Haven in search of the Yellow-browed Warbler that I had earlier caught. He did not find the yellow-browed but bumped into the same local birder that I had, who showed him an image of a male Stonechat which he thought might be a Siberian bird. Dave immediately went to the hide and got tantalising views of a female type bird that looked good for a Siberian Stonechat, but no sign of a male bird.

This morning Dave emailed some pictures to me and Simon Ingram which looked very good for a Sibe Stonechat, but by that time I had already decided to go. When I arrived I was the only person in the hide but Alan Lewis soon arrived. There were at least 10 Common Stonechats feeding along the fence, but no sign of the Sibe initially, and then it appeared. It was proving very difficult to pick up, keeping low in the vegetation, but eventually showed very well, just a few meters from our ringing area. Unfortunately the battery in my SLR was flat so I had to resort to a spot of digiscoping, so apologies for the poor images.

Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus

Although not the best pictures I have ever taken, they are not the worst either, and the required features to confirm it as a Sibe Stonechat can be easily seen. I am hoping that Alan Lewis will email some better pictures over later which will show the features better. But from the images above it is possible to see the buff unstreaked rump and the generally pale sandy colouration. The pale fringing throughout and the pale well-defined whitish throat point to the bird being female/first winter. The tertials were dark centred with pale fringing, unfortunately this feature cannot be seen in my images. The obvious broad supercilium, which is said to make the species resemble a Whinchat, was not really that obvious and the bird actually resembled a Desert Wheatear, due to its sandy plumage.

If accepted this will be the second record in Hampshire, the first also being at Titchfield Haven and found by Barry Duffin in 1988, when it was still a subspecies.

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