Isabelline Wheatear  no doubt

On Monday 21 October 1996, Wouter Dijksman and Jan Maas discovered an Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina at Maasvlakte – a new species on the Dutch list (Dijksman & Maas 1997). The next day, Ferdy Hieselaar and I enjoyed close views of this confiding bird. Although Isabelline and Northern Wheatear O oenanthe share many features, we knew we were looking at the right bird straightaway, mostly due to its heavy build, upright stance and rather pale plumage (particularly, the plain greater and median coverts and whitish axillaries and underwing-coverts).

In September 2000, I spent much time at IJmuiden. I visited the site on 20 days and observed many awesome birds, including a Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, a Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus (lingering for a couple of days), a Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus, up to eight Western Ospreys Pandion haliaetus, eight European Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus, two Short-eared Owls Asio flammeus (plus a dead one), a Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla, a Eurasian Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus, a Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides, four Richard’s Pipits Anthus richardi, two Tawny Pipits A campestris, four Red-throated Pipits A cervinus, up to 44 Lapland Longspurs Calcarius lapponicus, seven Ortolan Buntings Emberiza hortulana and a Little Bunting E pusilla. Listening to my sound-recordings and looking through my notebook, I am still amazed even 17 years later.

Memorable days were 5 September, when I found a Greenish Warbler (which stayed for five days), and 19 September, when I sound-recorded a Eurasian Penduline Tit, a Richard’s Pipit, two Tawny Pipits, a Red-throated Pipit, an Ortolan Bunting and a Little Bunting. Friday 22 September was another busy day, keeping me out in the field from dawn till dusk. At about 18:15, Dirk Moerbeek offered me a ride home. We had just left, when Dirk stopped the car to have a quick look at a Northern Wheatear at the car park. Then, a bit further down the road, we noticed another wheatear and this one immediately looked interesting. No matter how subtle the individual characters were, the combination of them was screaming one thing: Isabelline Wheatear, no doubt!

Dirk, who had already mastered the art of digiscoping back then, quickly made some record shots, before reality sunk in – we had just found the second Isabelline Wheatear for the Netherlands! The bird performed until dark and again the next day. I even managed to get a sound-recording of a long series of its whistle calls. Based on the well-defined black loral-bar it was probably a male. Within a month, the third was identified on Schiermonnikoog (Moerbeek et al 2002), and in recent autumns a few more have turned up along the coast.

Isabelline Wheatear call intobirding.com

Click here to listen to the sound-recording I made.

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Published 3 April 2018