Tim Melling – Red-flanked Bluetail

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Tim writes: on 28 September the weather was good for photography and I hadn’t taken a photo for a few days so I decided to head for Spurn Point on the Yorkshire Coast where I had a wonderful time. This Red-flanked Bluetail was the star bird, though it was first found by someone else. I have never managed to find one for myself in Britain, which is something that Mark Avery has on me as he found one at Spurn, no less. When I started birdwatching Red-flanked Bluetail was an almost mythical rarity with just a handful of records that few birdwatchers had seen in Britain. But about twenty years ago its status changed and it started to make regular appearances in Britain, usually in autumn, but sometimes in spring. Nowadays it occurs annually, usually with multiple records. The species breeds widely across the taiga zone of Siberia but in the 1940s it colonised Finland. This is an outlying population that has continued to expand in northern Scandinavia which probably explains the bird’s increasing frequency in Britain. The entire population winters in Indo-China but odd individuals wander the wrong way and end up in Britain for a day or two, like this young bird. It is related to birds like Robin and Wheatear, and they are in the Old World Flycatcher family. You can see that its name is a prosaic description of the bird, which has orange patches on its sides, and a blue tail.

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