Wednesday, 6 January 2010

New species for the Western Palearctic?

The safari went out to top up the feeders at the bottom of the garden at Base Camp and came across this very unusual species resting on the only bit of open water on our pond. Our resident Coot seems to have left to find warmer weather and better feeding opportunities elsewhere and has been replaced by this new species, which we think this its Arctic cousin. The bird in question is the extremely elusive and very rarely spotted Blackpool Snowy Backed Coot (Fulica dorso nivialis-funpackedplaceis). The definitive field characters are the obviously snowy nape, crown, mantle and scapulars, extending to cover the primary tips, outer greater coverts and upper tail coverts, the frozen bill which includes an extensive icicle and, in comparison to Coot, the barely red eye.
Little is known of the species habits and ecology as, like the Slender Billed Curlew and Ivory Billed Woodpecker alleged sightings are approximately 10 – 15 years apart. It was assumed that with climate change seriously degrading its habitat the species was probably extinct in the Blackpool area. But as you can see it is still alive and well, whether or not there is a mate out there somewhere for this individual is open to debate, so far there have been no other confirmed sightings.
The safari is considering offing a reward of several thousand good old English pounds, shillings and pence for an expedition to thoroughly search the garden ponds in the vicinity of Base Camp, and beyond, to discover if there is indeed a mate for our lonely individual somewhere out there. If not it could be curtains for the species unless it is extremely long lived and reappears in around 2020 - 2025 when similar Arctic conditions are likely to return to these parts.
A feather by feather description will need to be written for the BOU and then it might need to be shot so that our local museum can hold the type specimen, or maybe we just need the fishing net!
A bitingly cold breezy but sunny Patch 2 held nothing but a good count of 49 Sanderlings at lunchtime
If you’re enjoying this extended cold spell then you have a rare ‘negative’ phase of Arctic (Atmospheric) Oscillation to thank – if you’re not ‘suffering’ from it this winter for the rest of the world it is likely to be the 5th warmest Noc- Feb period ever recorded and the ‘flip’ in the A(A)O is possibly down to global warming anyway. Siberia is 10C warmer than average for the time of year - UP to only minus 35C. Trust Britain to be the only place on the planet to be cooling down!
Where to next? Back to reality might be nice – no chance of a Patch 1 visit tonight – far too slippery for any one with any sense or a dog to venture into. Might by a set of Langlauf skis if this freeze continues.
In the meantime let us know of any species new to science recently found in your outback.
PS – the MOT is turning in to a two day job – smashed wheel bearing – oohhh eerrr I can feel the cost creeping up to expensive!

1 comment:

Warren Baker said...

Think I had two of those on my pond, going by your description Dave :-)