Sunday 18 February 2018

Pigeon Guillemot: columba and snowi

Wonders will never cease! The Habomai boat trip I booked actually sailed! This was the first time I made it out on either this or the Ochiishi boat. Waves or ice in winter and fog in summer have always conspired to keep me firmly onshore. The only complaint I have about this trip is that two hours is way too short. But there are more days than sausages, as my Hungarian companions might have told me.

The conditions were fairly calm which made spotting alcids so much the easier and this turned out to be my first opportunity to see a couple of species up close. I've managed pretty good harbour views of Spectacled Guillemot and Ancient Murrelet but Least Auklet and Pigeon Guillemot have always been well off shore. I was particularly pleased to have comparative views of two races of Pigeon Guillemot so in the unlikely event of 'Kuril' Guillemot being split I have my insurance at the ready.

The sea may have been been in gentle mood but it was still difficult to get good shots of the alcids as they were frequently obscured by even that slight swell and balance, or lack of it, meant sharp focus on flying birds was hit or miss, mainly the latter. Nothing would make me happier than to have the chance to practise in the hope of making perfect... but realistically that isn't going to happen.

Cepphus columba columba (or kaiurka?) with obvious and extensive white in the wing coverts. Note the distinct but narrow eye ring with faint pale eye line to the rear, echoing Spectacled. This is said to be a feature of snowi but is far more distinct on this bird than the snowi I saw. EDIT: I now suspect this is actually a snowi with an extreme amount of white in the coverts. How both the adult and immature plumages transition is still a mystery to me and it would be nice to be able to spend more in those waters. In those waters on a boat to be more precise, cliff top views are invariably too distant to be of much value. 

The same bird as above.

Cepphus columba snowi. The flank feathers cover most of the wing, nevertheless white coverts would have been visible on columba. Rather than echoing Spectacled's face pattern, this bird has a pale decurved 'supercillium'.

The same bird as above though lighting makes it appear substantially different.

The same (presumed) columba as in the first images. The white in the upperwing coverts is very eye-catching in the field as can be seen to better effect in the image below.

The same bird as above showing its very conspicuous white wing patch.

The same snowi taking off. There's no white to speak of in the upperwing on this view. Note it has a whitish hind 'supercillium' in a slightly different position to the comet's tail behind Spectacled's eye patch. There is no eye-ring whatsoever on this bird.

The same bird as above, again the supercillium is quite distinct.

The same bird more distantly. Faint restricted white coverts bars are actually more visible here, though no more conspicuous than the rump barring.

Another snowi, coverts tips are just visible. This bird does have a Spectacled-like eye ring and down-curved eye line.

Same bird as above. You can just make out a single upperwing coverts bar here, it's more obvious in the original image before resizing to post.

Spectacled Guillemot with typical bold eye patch.

The same bird as above with uniformly dark coverts.

A near breeding plumage Spectacled.

No comments:

Post a Comment