October 29, 2012
The world's first photo of a Sillem's mountain finch. This is a male taken at 5,000 meters above sea level. Photo by: Yann Muzika.
During a trip to the Yeniugou Valley on the Tibetan Plateau, Muzika snapped several photos of an unknown finch, amid other related birds. Passing the photos onto the Oriental Bird Club, a UK-based charity working on bird conservation and information in the region (including an online library of over 60,000 photos), proved fruitful. The photo editor of the OBC, Krys Kazmierczak, needed only one look at the enigmatic finch.
"The words 'Sillem's Mountain Finch' simply popped into my head, and I sat there for a little while somewhat awestruck," he later wrote to OBC supporters.
Kazmierczak then turned to several ornithologists, each of who has confirmed that Muzika had indeed captured a vanished species on film.
A trek to study the birds is required for final proof, including a blood sample for DNA. But Muzika plans to return to the site in 2013.
Sillem's mountain finch appears to be a high-altitude specialist, according to Kazmierczak. Both the original specimens were collected and Muzika's encounter took place over 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) above sea level, over three times the altitude of Denver.
The OBC encourages other birders traveling to the region to keep an eye out for the mysterious Sillem's mountain finch.
Close-up of Sillem's mountain finch. Photo by: Yann Muzika.
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