Wednesday 16 December 2015

Time for a Change of Targets

Hunting autumn vagrants in Newfoundland is not over yet but the focus is switching to early winter vagrant hunting. This includes the  highly exciting European Turdus thrush (Euro Turd) hunting.There is an excellent crop of dogberries awaiting any turdus thrushes that comes our way.

It has been too long since the last Redwing.  For several years in a row its status had been lowered to nothing more than a year bird if you lived on the Avalon Peninsula. It was still an exciting chase looking for a Redwing but we got spoiled with too many successes.  After a three (4?) winter drought we have regained a fresh hunger to see Redwing.  We are coming into a good situation for Redwing = lots and lots of dogberries, and there were some NE winds over the autumn season. So far we are having trouble seeing even American Robins but that is normal. It is often in January when St. John's and the eastern Avalon becomes hot for robins.

Redwing became the Euro Turd of choice in Newfoundland through the 2000s as Fieldfare dropped completely off the map. In the late 1980s and 1990s Fieldfare was the normal Euro Turd to look for and Redwing was the Super Star.  Modern day Newfoundland birders(post 2000) have not seen Fieldfare in Newfoundland but have seen Redwing.  This changing of the Euro Turds in Newfoundland corresponds to the change in status of these birds in Greenland.  Redwings quickly built up a small pocket of breeders in the southwest (?) part of the country exactly the same time the species began regularly showing up in Newfoundland. Meanwhile the tiny breeding population of Greenland Fieldfares diminished. 

We await to see what happens this winter. If it is another Redwing blank then it will be time to find out why. Maybe the Greenland breeding pocket vanished as quickly as it built up.  

Redwing on 23 Jan 2007 near the Fluvarium, St. John's

The same Redwing as above. The species is shy.  
Usually the dogberry crop does not last much beyond mid February as the birds and wind take care of the fruit.  Then the Robin flocks have to leave Newfoundland taking the Redwings with them but in the winter of 2007/2008 there were a few berries available through the winter and a small number of robins and this Redwing got through the season.   (Quidi Vidi Lake, 9 March 2008)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bruce,

    Trying to sort out the differences between the two Redwing subspecies (Icelandic 'coburni' and Eurasian 'iliacus') is a subject I dip into from time to time, usually whenever I have the opportunity to study wintering flocks here in Ireland (usually not often on the coast). While working in the midlands last winter, where the majority of our winter thrushes go, I was able to get a good look at large numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare.

    I can't say I'm any wiser or more confident when it comes to picking out individuals of either race in these flocks however (age & sex probably introducing more variation into the mix than is currently given credit for) but from looking at your pics in this blog post I would suggest that the Jan 2007 bird is 'iliacus' and the March 2008 bird 'coburni'.

    The Jan 2007 bird has lovely clean underparts (more pale than dark on the undertail) and neat breast/flank streaking set against a bright background. The March 2008 bird is smudgy and dark enough for it to be a 'coburni' to my eyes.

    We get plenty of disorientated and bedraggled Redwing on the R.V. Celtic Explorer in early April when surveying west of Scotland, presumably all 'coburni' on the way to Iceland

    I would assume that the birds breeding in Greenland that you mentioned are 'coburni'? (any pics online of these?)

    Interesting therefore that an 'iliacus' type (Jan 2007) bird should be seen in Newfoundland also. Perhaps more of a true vagrant?

    Here's a couple of links which might be of interest:

    All the best,


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