Is this our Roy at work?

To: <>
Subject: Is this our Roy at work?
From: "Tony Lawson" <>
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2008 21:10:37 +1100
Falcon first stuns birders  

[Monday 20 October 2008]
Observers in Britain have been shocked this weekend by the news that a new species for Britain was watched by hundreds of birders this autumn and identified by none of them.

Photographs of the Tophill falcon clearly showed the white underwing. Photo: Roy Harvey  (sorry -could not send Roy's pic)

On 14 September Rare Bird Alert broke the news that a male Red-footed Falcon had been reported at Tophill Low Nature Reserve in East Yorkshire. The bird subsequently settled in for a prolonged stay. With the invasion of the species in spring this year it did not attract a huge crowd of birders, but over the next month plenty of people visited Tophill and both watched and photographed it.

On its arrival the falcon was identified as a first-summer male Red-foot, and it was clearly in moult, but no-one who saw it suspected what the moult would reveal. On the evening of Saturday 18 October comments about photos on the BirdGuides website were posted by one astute observer, Ian Fisher, who noted that "a Red-foot should either already have, or be moulting in black underwing coverts", rather than white like those in the images. White underwing coverts are diagnostic of male Amur Falcon, the lookalike east Asian counterpart of Red-footed Falcon, and closer inspection of the images appear to confirm this as the case.

Online bird forums and newsgroups buzzed with speculation. Photographs were checked and the awful truth began to dawn on British birders. Here was a mega that might have got away. News that it had been seen as recently as Thursday 16 October was small consolation for those who arrived on Sunday 19th to look for it, as there was no sign all day.

Amur Falcon is very similar to Red-footed Falcon, but the males display pure white underwing coverts when adult. This individual still had dark-barred coverts which it was in the process of moulting. Photos show these clearly and also show the paler grey underparts than back, as well as a clear moustachial stripe. All of these characters fit an Amur Falcon of that age.

Amur Falcon breeds in eastern Asia and the entire population migrates 11,000 km to winter in southern Africa, leaving in September and often being seen in huge flocks. Previous records in the Western Palearctic include an adult male in Sweden in June-July 2005, one reported in Hungary in July 2006 and about six records for Italy from the Straits of Messina, Sicily, on spring passage.

A previous record of Amur Falcon in Britain involved a male bird originally ringed in south-west France in May 1984, but its origins were doubtful and both the French and British record were subsequently rejected as doubtful.

Source: Birding Aus &


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