Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society Newsletter.
March 2000


Welcome to the March Newsletter. I have just finished reading this month's Birding World which contains an excellent article/series of photographs on immature Caspian Gulls, reinforcing how distinctive the Blyth Estuary bird was on the recent LDBWS February minibus trip. The article does, however, refer to mixed colonies producing hybrid young in Poland, providing the downside of attempts to justify separate speciation. In the same issue is an article on two "Siberian Chiffchaffs" at a sewage farm in Worcestershire along with a comment "popular (!) opinion suggests separate species'.

The same issue is also trying desperately to justify the hordes who have been to see the Meadow Bunting at Hunstanton whilst still retaining credibility by asserting that it is 'almost definitely' an escape. I feel that the popularity of this bird is a product of proximity to the north Norfolk hotspots and also 'word games'. 'Siberian' 'Meadow' and 'Bunting' are all words which we can associate with in a Western Palearctic context (The definition of 'Siberian' ='within vagrancy range of Britain). Wishful thinking for a species whose greatest migratory feat seems to be negotiating the Great Wall of China. We'll refrain from any reference to Blackpool.

Going back to the Chiffchaffs, many observatory workers and other covering coastal sites have received Chiffchaffs along the lines of the photographs in Birding Worlds along with many gradational individuals. We have, for example, received four ghostly-grey individuals at Heysham, one of which, when he first found it, prompted Shaun Coyle to initially think of Bonelli's Warbler. The Worcestershire article mentions collybita or collybita/abietinus accompanying these two birds. I wonder if this means that all the rest are collybita look-alikes therefore the northern/eastern birds really stand out, hence all the hype?. In this respect, there does not appear to be any reference to any of the others giving other than collybita calls. In this respect, 'brownish'** individuals have given Bullfinch-like 'pheeu' calls at Heysham.

The point of the above is to try and encourage some of you to pass an opinion on the current 'what is a species' melting pot for the June Newsletter. Look forward to contributions.

This Newsletter is timed just prior to the AGM and we encourage people to participate in the running of the society by joining the committee. We have four vacancies this year. Finally, please note the surveys set out by Dave Sharpe and also the 'Small Sit' scheduled for 29th April.

Copy for the next issue by Thursday 15th June (ready to print off/photocopy) Monday 12th June (handwritten). No handwritten copy on the Thursday, please.

** No room for full descriptions here!

Pete Marsh (mail me)

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