Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 5 June 2019 18:56

Yesterday morning was my first day in my part time role at the Trust. I started early by heading out to Butcherlands to finish the bird survey. I have, since the last visit I reported, confirmed breeding of the Dartford Warblers there. I was just getting to that area when in the distance, around 100 m away among the cacophony of Garden Warblers and Whitethroats, I heard what I thought was a Sedge Warbler. That was odd as I had a migrant Sedge Warbler last time. So I headed towards it and soon realised I had something quite different. It sounded like a Garden Warbler singing twice as fast but this was preceded by some unusual repetitive notes, not unlike Swallow or Starling alarm calls.

What on Earth was this? I can tell you hearing a singing bird in Britain that I don't recognise is a thrilling event. My heart was beating like a big clock in fear it would get away without me seeing it. It had moved from the big willow to the left of the image above and was moving away from me rapidly, singing from the bramble clumps. I headed towards it, filming to get a sound recording with my camera. It wasn't a warbler I knew from Europe, so it had to be one I had never heard singing. Through a process of elimination my money was on a Sylvia warbler and I thought maybe Subalpine Warbler. I rounded one bramble to see it sat right out in the open atop a bramble singing its heart out. A massive yellow warbler with a sharp crest and a big pale bill. Obviously a Hippolais warbler!!!

So that meant it had to be either Melodious or Icterine Warbler. I had good views but not good enough for a photo so I had to rely on behaviour, colour, timing, location and the sound recording. I was fairly convinced after listening to the two on Xeno-Canto that it was Melodious Warbler, which from memory was also more likely here, and this was soon verified by a variety of more experienced birders. How exciting. Here is the best of the recordings I made.

I have only seen one before in the autumn of 2001 when I was a volunteer at Dungeness RSPB at the start of my career. It was low down in some Rock Samphire in front of the nuclear power station, certainly not singing from the top of a bush. It felt like a lifer to be fair. All this happened between 7.00 am and 7.30 am and by 9.30 when I got back to the same location it was nowhere to be seen. So I think it is long gone. This was by far the best bird I have found on the reserves in the last 11 years. Being possibly my last time I do this survey, it was a real treat to see this and I did well up a bit with excitement. Butcherlands just keeps throwing up exciting records.

I didn't see or hear the Darfords this time, they have finished already. I did however add another new bird to the survey. A singing Reed Warbler in a hedge. Which makes NINE warblers this year from the survey. 

Also, some of those weird asperitas clouds I saw last autumn when driving. Strange that these are the most recently named clouds but are some of our most distinctive. And that I have only seen them in the last two years. 


Roman Says:

A great account of a bird sighting Graeme, I thought you only did invertebrates :-)

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