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ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:29 pm
by andrewcrossland
Hi folks,

I encountered this bird while doing a bush bird survey transect on the waterway track at the end of Alymers Valley Road, Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, on Thursday 16 August.

I was drawn to a series of unusual loud single note calls that sounded similar to a Greenfinch's contact call and followed the sound to locate a bird perched on a branch overhanging the track about 15 m up from the gate. Habitat was native forest (mahoe, broadleaf, kanuka, lemonwood) with abundant onga onga understorey.

It appeared to be approx. Greenfinch-sized with medium length, lightly forked tail. It held a very upright body position when perched. I took a series of photos with my really crap Fuji finepix camera on 30x digital zoom, the majority of which auto-focused on vegetation behind the bird and are blurred.

The bird had dark crown and ear coverts, contrasting with a pale chin/throat/upper breast, a faint dark grey "rugby league jersey" V band on its lower breast (which changed in extent depending on what angle the bird was viewed at), a lemon belly, smooth medium-grey sides and flanks, dark grey undertail, brownish wings, and back. Feet appeared light brown-orangey. The eye was dark and the bill was very fine like a Dunnock's rather than thick and stubby like a finch. At one point it flew to a higher branch, showing no sign of a wing bar or pale feather edgings in the wings.

After the initial period of loud single notes, it leapt into full song, sounding similar to a Dunnock's song.

I'd love to turn this into something different - and it kinda looked a lttle bit like a Jungle-flycatcher (Cyornis sp.) but looking thru various Aussie/SE Asian/East Asian fieldguides there's nothing I can make it in to and I'm resigned to the liklihood thats its probably just a funny Dunnock.

Anyway, as we so seldom have challenging passerine ID puzzles in this country, I thought I'd share it.

Firstly, here's the location

Alymers valley.JPG
Alymers valley.JPG (128.62 KiB) Viewed 1875 times


and here's some pics:

passerine 2.jpg
passerine 2.jpg (314.04 KiB) Viewed 1875 times



passerine 1.jpg
passerine 1.jpg (256.08 KiB) Viewed 1875 times

Re: ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:30 pm
by andrewcrossland
more pics

Passerine 5.jpg
Passerine 5.jpg (541.61 KiB) Viewed 1876 times


passerine 4.jpg
passerine 4.jpg (331.7 KiB) Viewed 1876 times


passerine 3.jpg
passerine 3.jpg (374.25 KiB) Viewed 1876 times




I should say passerine species that occur in this area are:
Tui
Bellbird
Fantail
Grey Warbler
Brown Creeper
Tomtit
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Chaffinch
Redpoll
Yellowhammer
Dunnock
House Sparrow
Starling
Blackbird
Song Thrush

Re: ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:35 pm
by andrewcrossland
Passerine 6.jpg
Passerine 6.jpg (383.89 KiB) Viewed 1872 times

Re: ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:31 pm
by lloydesler
Hi folks, just come across a record of another unknown passerine. Redpoll perhaps? A correspondent aboard the Rakiura recorded this on a visit to the Snares in the Evening Star 30 September 1913. “Thousands of penguins hold their mock parliaments with much wagging of heads and an incessant squeaking or squawking day and night. Larks, thrushes, sparrows, starlings, and ring eyes have been seen, and a jet-black tomtit. The tutukiwi is a native of the Snares, and is of a dark brown color, with a longish beak, and stunted wings which enable it to fly about 20 yards or so. A gay colored bird (green and red) about the size of a goldfinch was also seen but no one in the party knew the name of it.”
Cheers
Lloyd

Re: ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:56 am
by Oscar Thomas
Looks like you've got a shady dunnock there Andrew.

Re: ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:03 pm
by andrewcrossland
In the week since I posted about this bird I've been looking at lots of Dunnocks and my thinking is that both the vertical body position, the lack of dark splots and striations, and the lemon yellow lower parts don't sit all that well with Dunnock.
Others have suggested its a Brown Creeper but it s too slender, too upright, sat in one place for too long, had no white eye stripe or cheek stripe and didn't have any brown creeper notes in its call. I'd just minutes before been watching a group of brown creeper moving and calling through the lower branches of sone trees just up the track.
I've tried to turn it into a female of various types of cuckoo but the tail is wrong.
What am I missing here?

Re: ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Sun Aug 26, 2018 5:15 pm
by andrewcrossland
mystery 1.JPG
mystery 1.JPG (44.26 KiB) Viewed 1512 times

The above is a black and white image of the bird thst Paul Goodolphin kindly converted for me. Any ID suggrstions?

Re: ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Mon Aug 27, 2018 12:31 am
by Oscar Thomas
Hi Andrew,

Glad to see some perseverance but I'm sticking to dunnock. I don't see an issue with the posture, and they aren't actually too well marked on the front. Obviously, the colour is going to be distorted as the bird is in shade on a bright background. Here is it compared to an image of a dunnock I found on the net. I have also made a really quick manipulated version to show what it might look like in the same lighting conditions. Hope this helps.

Re: ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:43 am
by andrewcrossland
Good work there - and its pushed my thinking back toward Dunnock but I'm still uneasy about the super fine bill, the lack of striations, the lemon yellow belly and less stock proportions. At first glance they look really similar but then on study one can see a number of differences that need some thinking about.
I guess my problem is logically by the powers of elimination I'm thinking dunnock but I've spent too much time in the tropics and this thing is telling me that I know it from somewhere. If I showed these pics to anyone from a country where dunnock is not the only default choice I'm pretty sure they'd say it wasn't a dunnock. .
Anyway om gonna go back this week and try to find it.

Re: ID thoughts on this strange passerine at Akaroa?

Posted: Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:31 am
by erikforsyth
Hi Andrew

it superficially resembles a Lemon-bellied Flycatcher which I have seen in Australia and Papua New Guinea... the thin bill, hooked at end, pale throat and yellow, lower belly are good. But it still doesn't look quite right.

probably a strangely coloured Dunnock!

Best wishes
Erik Forsyth
Rockjumper Birding Tours
http://www.rockjumperbirding.com