Thursday, 27 September 2012

Strange?... [and THIS is called bird WATCHING.]

We have Black Redstarts [Phoenicurus ochruros var. gibraltariensis] Rougequeue noire here but we seem to lose the male each summer... The book shows the male in all his dinner suited glory like this photo....
Picture taken July 4th '06

and this is how he arrives... [there is another picture here from March of this year]

And then he and the female bounce around a bit in their courtship... lots of "ball bearings" being heard... and then the male seems to go invisible... still hearing the "ball bearings"... but we seem to have two females chasing each other around. And one "female" feeding the other that is begging... typical courtship behaviour... so one female must be a 1st summer male. [According to the book]

Female, male, first year male? Who knows...
whichever, this bird was sitting where our kitchen sink now is...
behind the newly installed double-glazed windows.
The only way in was via the owl-slot in the gable end.
This brood was raised successfully and so was a second.
[Picture taken 17th July '07]
The 2008 broods were raised in what is now our guest room!
The loft hatch was in place by 2009!!

We've noticed this occurrence now for two years running... either we are very unfortunate and have lost the mature male twice, or something else is going on.

But, do the books always get it right? These are just my thoughts...

Does the male have his main moult at the end of summer, just before migration... which makes sense as it gives the bird new feathers just before the  long flight... and a moult of the worn primaries just after mating. And it would make sense for two reasons... firstly, he renews his feathers just before he has to do a lot of hunting... and secondly, he can get into a plumage that makes him less obvious!
I ask this because we find the black wing primaries up in the longère's grenier... a reasonably safe place to "undress"! With a food supply on hand amongst the beams, too.

In which case, the female may well have a moult whilst she is sitting and being fed by the male... it makes evolutionary sense... she wouldn't waste energy moulting before, as all her spare energy is going into the eggs. But, as she remains the same colour all year, we can't really tell.

The Black Redstart is a 'short distance' migrant... like the Robin... if we see them here in winter, they won't be 'our' Black Redstarts. Ours are probably in Spain... but no further south than Morocco or Algieria.

And, whilst mentioning migration, which is now in full swing, we have a very colourful visitor at the moment.... just passing through on the way to Africa... a male  Redstart [Phoenicurus phoenicurus] Rougequeue á front blanc.
Now as you can see from Pauline's picture here... he is glorious!

You can clearly see the rusty-red breast and the white forehead that identify him as a male Redstart.
I've seen Redstarts only in Spring and they've never been this bright... is a similar moult pattern going on here too? We don't get Redstarts here, and this is a first sighting for us at La Forge, so I've nothing on which to base a comparison.

But, on another tack.... is the male Black Redstart also like the Robin in that he can have a number of wives? But that wouldn't explain the begging behaviour... this though is what birdWATCHING is all about... observations and records... followed by ponder and discuss!

The book: Collins Bird Guide [Le Guide Ornitho] Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom & Grant [1999]


Colin and Elizabeth said...

Interesting, we will have to look more closely at our Black Redstarts. Will also lookout for a Redstart. We quite often notice birds that we don't instantly recognise and by the time we have got the binocks they have gone...

Tim said...

Binos and camera are never where you want them when you need them... actually I think that the cats move them deliberately to have a "laff" at our trouble.

The nature photography magazines in France advertise a shoulder harness that takes both camera and binos at the same time without them getting tangled or knocking against one another.... I keep thinking that I will have to get one... and wear it all the bleedin' time!

Jean said...

Marvellous photos and a great tale. We keep a pair of binos by the bedside, just in case we might need see what's enjoying the pickings from the birdfeeders that are only a few feet from our bedroom window. Birdwatching goes will with a cup of tea in bed of a Sunday morning !!

Tim said...

Thanks Jean... Now how about that... our bed has its headboard opposite the window... and yes, there is a pair of binos by the bedside... the guest room has binos and a bird book!
"Birdwatching goes well with a cup of tea in bed of a Sunday morning !!"... not just Sundays!!