Pallid Swift - Apus pallidus

On 24 October 2013 in the last hour of daylight at around 18:00 hours Lars Buckx found a Pallid Swift Apus pallidus on Vlieland at the most northeastern part of the island. The bird was also seen by Han Buckx, Jaap Eerdmans and Peter de Rouw, who are always on Vlieland in October for a week. Lars took several pictures and the news was spread quickly on the alert system and social media (where Lars was complaining about the irony he had found a good species by himself, but which was not new to him!).

For me it was a new species, as I missed the only accepted record of 2006 (also on Vlieland) so the next day two hired boats made their way to Vlieland plus a small group with the regular boat. The bird didn't make an appearance however, so some left with the afternoon boat at 12:00 hours, but as this boat was fully booked, the other birders were forced to stay till 17:00 hours. In the meantime several other supposedly Pallid Swifts were reported from other parts from the country (Castricum NH, Texel NH (the nearby island), Lauwersoog Gr and Enkhuizen NH). Most birders on Vlieland went looking for Parrot Crossbills, a long staying Red Phalarope or an elusive Red-backed Shrike (which was a Red-backed, not a Brown).

Roelof de Beer and I were quite frustrated by the news and thought our only chance for this day was to look for another bird, or the bird from yesterday to return. We positioned ourselves on a high dune near the Badhotel and waited and waited. And after this long waiting we decided to wait a little more. At 15:45 hours suddenly a swift appeared above our heads which flew to the northeast to the place it was seen the day before. Both of us were unable to take any pictures and we realized this would not be enough, although I had seen the whiter face-mask. We warned other birders and half-way we found three other birders standing on a high dune. They hadn't seen a thing, so Roelof and I decided to go back, but then the bird made an appearance again. We took lots of pictures but we could not see if this bird was either a Pallid or a Common, so we were crestfallen again. Then we heard other birders had picked up the bird too and they could see all diagnostic features plus were able to take more and better pictures: it was a Pallid Swift! For Pieter Doorn it was a special occasion, this was bird 342 for his yearlist, so he broke the 341-record of Alwin Borhem from 2012.

Happily we returned to the harbour to take the 17:00 hours boat. Some birders were too late to see the Swift, but in the end the next day they could observe the bird at Enkhuizen NH. Folkert-Jan Hoogstra, one of the birders who took the 12:00 hours boat found the bird at Lauwersoog Gr later on the 25th. Ies Goedbloed and Remco Hofland found a bird on 2 November on the Oosterscheldekering Zl and the same day Willem van Rijswijk found a bird flying above his house in Rotterdam ZH. Very probably the same bird was found exhausted on 4 November 1 km away from the original spot and was released on 8 November.

Note the large white throat-patch and forehead, and the dark eye-patch; Stortemelk, Vlieland, 25 October 2013 © Jan van der Laan

Note the greyish-brown plumage, also the colour of the lores and area behind the eye are the same; Stortemelk, Vlieland, 25 October 2013 © Jan van der Laan

The lighter rump and darker saddle are visible; Stortemelk, Vlieland, 25 October 2013 © Jan van der Laan

The underwing pattern was difficult to see on this picture; Stortemelk, Vlieland, 25 October 2013 © Jan van der Laan

The bird was seen till Saturday 26 October; It was accepted as the second record for the Netherlands. The first record was on 20-21 October 2006, also on the Island of Vlieland. This autumn there seemed to be a small influx with at least 6 birds in the last week of October and the first week of November. With all records now considered by the CDNA, the following records are recorded in the Netherlands:
  • 20-21 October 2006, Vlieland Fr,
  • 24-26 October 2013, Vlieland Fr,
  • 25 October 2013, De Nederlanden, Texel NH,
  • 25 October 2013, Lauwersoog, De Marne Gr
  • 25-26 October 2013, Enkhuizen NH,
  • 2 November 2013, Neeltje Jans, Schouwen-Duiveland Zld,
  • 2 November 2013, Groot-IJsselmonde, Rotterdam ZH and 3 November 2013 , Dammassestraat, Rotterdam ZH, picked up and taken into care, ringed and released at Plaat van Scheelhoek, Stellendam ZH, on 8 November 2013 (cf Dutch Birding 35: 427, plate 555-556, 2013).

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