Friday, 22 May 2015

Steppe, Lesser Spotted, Greater Spotted and a few UFA's

7 Sept. Very long broad hands with sword like primaries and a long P4 should make this an approaching Steppe Eagle.

The trailing edge is very uniform and complete with the primaries all looking fresh indicating a juvenile. The usually broad white central underwing bar is greatly reduced on this bird. Long broad hand with deep splayed primaries still obvious.

Same bird as above but with less striking shape as the primaries/hand are tightened up. To me, It feels a little more like a juvenile Lesser Spotted Eagle at this moment in time, probably not helped by the rather bland underwing pattern. P4 still appears long as does the hand but rest of primaries not that impressive. The broad white/ochre trailing edge typical of juvenile Steppe appears absent in these photos but could be due partly to the terrible light. Having said that, the inner primaries do look unimpressive when normally they would be very broadly pale tipped?

It is often impossible to judge the wing formula and wing structure of LSE/GSE when in a gliding flight. The wings on this eagle appear broad throughout their length and the tail short, both good for GSE but all this can change once the eagle begins to relax and circle. The dark overall impression of the underwing and the restricted outer comma also looks good for GSE.

An extremely high adult GSE. Nice broad wings throughout with a spiky P4 and a short tail help to rule out LSE. Separating distant/silhouetted GSE from SE can be extremely difficult but a white outer comma is just visible on this birds underwings. Also, the wings/hand/primaries don't look quite long enough for Steppe Eagle.

10 October - A group of 5 GSE/LSE flew high over Station 2. It wasn't really possible to scrutinize all them properly in the short viewing window but It's possible that these 4 (3 juveniles and 1 adult) are all GSE. Hybrids not ruled out of course.

11 Oct - I have this down as a GSE in at least 3rd cy. The wings are broad, tail short and P4 is relatively long and spiky. The vast majority of secondaries and primaries have been replaced at least once and some twice. It shows a distinct outer comma but also a narrow inner one - this feature seems to be quite variable and sometimes hard to judge.

Strong bill and chunky head.

Primaries more splayed showing spiky P4.

 Some barring is still visible in the bases of the secondaries and the inner primaries. Also white tips to the two new inner primaries in both wings and a mid secondary in the left wing. Undertail still pale.The central underwing coverts are light brown (worn or being moulted?) and contrast with the darker lesser coverts. Primaries and secondaries show varying ages.

12 Oct - Fairly broad wings including hand but P4 looks short and in line with the inner three primaries. Underwing coverts are brown (carpal darker) and clearly contrast with the remiges. White greater covert feathers and pale undertail indicate an immature and the varying aged primaries make it at least 3rd cy. Thickset body with a solid head and bill. Iris was pale brown which should make it a LSE.

Restricted white outer comma with barely a hint of an inner one. Hand more spread and clearly showing P4 to be short. Tail looks medium length especially in the photo below.

Long spiky P4, fairly dark brown underwing coverts and an obvious white flash at the base of the outer primaries look good for a GSE to me. There is a small amount of white on the inner comma area.

It is at least 3rd cy with many of the flight feathers moulted more than once. The inner primaries and a few outer secondaries have clean white tips. Very pale undertail coverts.

12 October - ? Long sword like primaries with a long spiky P4. Broad wings throughout length and short tail. Very little white in the carpals apart from a few white marks on the inner part and a slight frosty wash to the outer part. Pattern seems to be in between GSE/LSE. Underwing coverts and underbody light brown, the carpals and the breast being the darkest parts. Gape line typical of GSE/LSE and eye appeared dark.

Remiges a mixture of varying aged feathers. White tipped P1-2 with some light barring visible on P2 and some of the newer secondaries are solid black.

Same bird as above with a juvenile Steppe Eagle.

A very high SE/GSE. Very long primaries and a long spiky P4. Wings are long and broad with the hand appearing very full. I would opt for it being a Steppe Eagle.

19 Sept - Juvenile LSE/GSE digi-scoped at station 2.Very little barring in remiges, especially obvious in the translucent inner primaries should rule out LSE. Very weak double carpal comma seems of little use.

A strong white flash across the whole of the hand typical of GSE. Upperwing lacks the double white wing bar typical of many GSE. Almost looks like there could be a small rusty nape patch but it isn't visible on the photo below. Quite a warm gingery tint to the forewing contrasting with the darker secondaries.

An article on hybrid LSE/GSE published in Dutch Birding seemed to put a lot of emphasis on the uppertail coverts/rump markings. Seeing these features on an actively circling bird at several hundred meters in varying light conditions is near on impossible. I think it also said that a bird looking good for either LSE or GSE from below could turn out to be a hybrid from above. Maybe it is best to lump them with the chiffchaffs?

Very dark underwing coverts apart from contrasting lighter brown median coverts.

Fairly broad wings like GSE. Maybe it is just a GSE with a slightly atypical upperside.

10 October. A broad winged stocky bodied adult aquila. Indistinct carpal area, blacker than underwing coverts with maybe a hint of white in the outer area visible at certain angles but maybe not. Hard to judge the primary length from this posture because the wing-tip is compressed but primaries don't look too impressive. P4 not that long or protruding. Too far away to safely judge the gape line I think. Nape possibly pale?

P4 appears quite long when seen head on but can do even on LSE.

Head/neck don't look too protruding and bill not particularly heavy. Remiges seem to be all dark and with no obvious barring or dark trailing edge like typical Steppe although light not good for judging this accurately.

Very little contrast between upperwing coverts and remiges should rule out LSE. The restricted pale flash in primaries is more extensive on the inner part. The upperwing looks similar to some GSE and SE to me. No obvious pale nape patch from this angle.

Same aquila as above photos. I'm not sure what this bird is. To me, It looks a little too compact for a Steppe, too dark above for LSE, weak P4 and poor carpal area for GSE.

Another ? Quite a large aquila with a large tail. Wings fairly even width through length. Narrow double carpal crescents. Remiges appeared all dark and without a dark trailing edge. I guess it could be a LSE and a female on size.

An aquila heading for Station 1

16th Oct - the extensive white flash in the primaries and very broad hand should make this an adult type Steppe Eagle. Digi-scoped at great distance.

16th Oct - another eagle digi-scoped at long range and in poor light. Shape looks good for a Steppe Eagle, the primaries, especially P4 appearing very long and the wings broadening towards the hand. Underwings look dark with the carpal patches appearing a shade darker than the coverts.Impossible to see if remiges were barred or if a dark trailing edge was present.

Quite pale upperwing coverts (LSE) with a distinct greater covert line probably indicating a subadult. A distinct frosty flash to primaries especially inner-most.

Blackish carpal patches with no pale comma's.The combination of light conditions, ever changing flight postures and plumage variations between LSE,GSE and SE makes for a very real challenge that sometimes leaves people arguing amongst themselves long after the bird has passed.