In 24th March 2005, Nick Senior came across a striking adult male stonechat Saxicola at the London Wetland Centre, Greater London. The bird differed from `typical' Common Stonechats Saxicola torquatus in having strikingly pale, almost wholly white, underparts, with just a faint and restricted apricot wash to the upper breast. Furthermore, the bird showed extensive white neck-side patches, described as extending and broadening towards the rear of the neck, large white patches on the inner wing-coverts and a large area of white on the rump and uppertail-coverts. The underwings were described as grey with `sooty black' lesser underwing-coverts and axillaries. The observer considered these features to fall outside the known range of plumage variation of even the brightest or palest Common Stonechat. Photographs were taken which show just how striking this bird looked (plate 92). The bird was tentatively identified as showing characters of `Siberian Stonechat' S. t. maurus and the record was submitted as such to BBRC. During the record's initial fast-track circulation 1, all members were as impressed as the observer had been with the striking appearance of the bird and, in particular, with the pale and weakly flushed underparts. Opinions varied, however, on how this should be interpreted. Although spring male Siberian Stonechats can indeed show a restricted orange patch on the breast, the extremely weak coloration of the underparts of the London bird was not considered typical of this form. 

Issue 3
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