Birdwatch News Archive


The first known photograph of a live Sillem's Mountain Finch on Yann Muzika's blog.
The first known photograph of a live Sillem's Mountain Finch on Yann Muzika's blog.Enlarge image

Sillem's Mountain Finch returns


Posted on: 22 Oct 2012

A species of finch unseen since being collected in the late 1920s has been rediscovered on the Tibetan Plateau.


Photographer Yann Muzika has related on his blog how he refound the bird while trekking in early June in the Yenigou Valley in western Qinghai, China, at just below 5,000 m. Languishing in his base camp during a bout of food poisoning, Yann wandered around the camp's close proximity adn suddenly spotted a finch that he had never seen before. Despite the purpose of the visit to be the trekking, rather than true exploration or birding, he had his DSLR and a 400 mm lens with him "just in case".


Fortunately, he was able to get a shot of the bird, and some further photographs the next day, when it was found again among a flock of Tibetan Rosefinches. The following day, Yann and his partners aborted their trek owing to ill health, and with a now-broken camera, Yann descended from the mountains hoping that the memory card was still usable.


Despite the mystery of the bird's identity, the relevant photos were stored on his hard drive until he returned from a visit to Europe. The bird could still not be identified, and despite the similarity to what was known about Sillem's Mountain finch, he considered its original collection site 1,500 km to the east in 1929, when it was last seen, to exclude the possibility of this seemingly outlandish species.  


Yann sent his pictures to Krys Kazmierczak at the Oriental Bird Images database who almost straight away grasped their significance, and sent them on to Professor C Roselaar at the Zoological Museum of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, who wrote a paper on the mountain finch in 1992.

As yet, there is no conservation plan for the finch but birders are asked to keep an eye out for the species if they visit the accessible parts of the Kunlun and Tanggula passes in Tibet.  




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