Category Archives: 18) Warblers, Crests, Wrens

Quizbird: Leaf Warbler with a wing bar.

Blåvand, Denmark, 27th May 2015

On the 27th of May this year Henrik Knudsen trapped a wing-barred phylloscopus warbler at Blåvand, Denmark. It wasn’t heard to call.

WP 3-4, 2nd=7 Wing 61.5 mm.

So what species is it? Feathers for DNA which have already been sent off and are awaiting results of their analysis.

I (Martin G) have expressed my opinion on the identification to Henrik (and I will share them). He also has thoughts. What do you think?

warbler two (1 of 1) warbler three (1 of 1) warbler one (1 of 1)


NEW BOOK uncovers Yorkshire First

“Birds of the Spurn Area”

Coming soon…

Just a quick post to champion Andy Roadhousespurn esw1 (1 of 1) and a much awaited Volume.

Spurn Bird Observatory, the migration bright light of Britain’s east coast awaits the publication of a modern comprehensive ‘Birds of the Spurn Area’. Due out this Year! You can be a part of the action. Each species is being sponsored.

The nature of  exhaustive research means new stuff  gets uncovered. How about this little nugget? Good old-fashioned detailed recording means that a Subalpine Warbler, found in May 1968 had every one of its tail feathers illustrated. Which means it’s fully identifiable, not just generically, but specifically as an Eastern Subalpine Warbler.


9th May 1968

The first for Yorkshire and first on mainland Britain

Most appropriate as this is also one of the BEST place in Britain to see Subalpine Warbler! Neck and neck with Fair Isle on the most species for one site in Britain, Spurn is a national birdwatching treasure and this book will be a must have.

spurn esw2 (1 of 1)


Be a part of the Book

Have you been to Spurn? Seen a rare bird or migrant spectacle at Spurn?  Visited the Migration festival?

You are invited to Come and be part of this book. It’s a not-for-profit production. Proceeds going to advance Spurn Bird Observatory. Publishing is being covered in part by sponsorship. More info? Just email Andy Roadhouse:  friendsofspurn ‘at’

What species would you sponsor?

Heres’ the species I might have sponsored but got beaten to it!

Roller Martin Garner Spurn 29 May 2012

So I went all ‘frontiers’ and will be sponsoring:




May 2011

This female Subalpine Warbler in May 2011 was also retrospectively confirmed as an Eastern, by its tail feather.

photo John Law

photo John Law




Green Warbler- 1st for Finland

20th May 2012 

Mika is celebrating as his Green Warbler has just been accepted by the Finnish Records Committee. It’s not news but certainly a winter heart warmer. Green Warbler, ‘nitidus’ of Transcaspia, Caucasus, NW Iran, NE Turkey etc remains extremely rare in NW Europe with just one British records (Isles of Scilly – Sept/Oct 1983) and a handful from other countries. So here’s a reminder of what one might look like… on my patch this spring :)

Green Warbler green_warbler_birdingfrontiers_MBR_6153

Green Warbler, Phylloscopus nitidus 20 May 2012 Lågskär, Kaukaasianuunilintu.  First record for Finland. Mika Bruun.

Mika Bruun

Lågskär is located at the southern end of the Åland archipelago, approximately 45 km south of Mariehamn. This traditional birding station has been active since the 1950’s, although nowadays its use has been decreasing because of the remote location and poor living conditions (no electricity). It has been the location for several rare bird observations for Finland. In total 13 new species for Finland been found here. The 1st was a Pine Bunting 1968, then Pechora Pipit 1972, Blyth´s Pipit and Swainson´s Thrush 1974, Masked Shrike 1982, last was a Crag Martin in 1988. I hoped to find a new species for the country myself as I disembarked for the island on the 17 of May with three of my friends. For one reason or another I bought a pricey “toasting” champagne to celebrate the new species I would find on the trip, as I jokingly suggested before arriving.


Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 12.29.35The Island of Lågskär, Finland in May 2012

On the third day of the trip, as the southeastern wind still blew warm, the morning began ominously: a Greenish Warbler song early in the morning, or at least so we supposed. I didn’t hear the bird and began looking for it on the other side of the island, because we felt most of the birds were heading that way.  I found some shelter and almost immediately heard a Greenish Warbler-like sound, at the same time slightly wondering the vagueness of it. Right away I found a bird with wing-bar and began taking photos. I only saw the bird trough the lens, and was pretty certain it was a Greenish Warbler as that was the bird I was looking for. However my first observation was of strongly yellow face, hmm. But the bird being extremely busy I had to put all of my effort for searching the bird with the view finder. The strong clear white wing-bar (I even saw two wing-bars briefly) also raised my suspicions at one point, but nevertheless I still focused on photographing. After a few encounters the bird vanished into the canopy and I couldn’t find it anymore. I checked through the photos but wasn’t satisfied with their quality, still supposing I was shooting a Greenish Warbler.


green_warbler_ 3MBR_6130

I forgot the bird almost immediately as I found something new to photograph. After some time I met the others. I told them about the yellow Greenish Warbler and it caused some wonder, but we didn’t look through the photos. That didn’t happen until the evening as we gathered together. Tapio Aalto raised the question concerning the Greenish Warbler and we instantly realized what we were looking at, a Green Warbler! A quick check from the books confirmed our assumptions. It became even clearer to me when I listened the call and the singing, and couldn’t understand how I didn’t grasp what it was at the time. I had, after all, seen hundreds of Greenish Warblers and dozens of Green Warblers. We headed back to the spot at once where the bird had later shown itself to Jari Helstola. He couldn’t identify the bird at that time either, and supposed it was a Greenish Warbler.

Green Warbler

Unfortunately we couldn’t find the bird no longer and neither the next morning despite hard efforts. During the night and early morning I was sending pictures to my friends. We quickly got some good help with the identifying and the bird was confirmed to be a Green Warbler. Fortunately, during my many trips through the jungle, I have formed the habit of first shooting the bird and only after that looking at it if time remains. In this case it was rewarded by a new species to the country.

Mika Bruun

P.S. a write up also appears in Birding World 25.6 with other photos.

Comparing spring Greenish and Green Warbler

all photos Mika Bruun

greenish_warbler_2birdingfrontiers_MBR_6996Green WarblerUpper two photos. Greenish Warbler above, Green warbler below. Both taken in May 2012 on Lågskär

and a bit closer….


green_warbler_birdingfrontiers_MBR_6153Upper two photos. Greenish Warbler above, Green Warbler below. Both taken in May 2012 on Lågskär.

Same May, different colourful species

While celebrating and reminiscing, that was the same May 2012 in which, just 9 days after Mika’s Green Warbler, this Bobby dazzler popped up in front of a couple of us at Spurn.



Bring on the Spring 2015!

More thoughts on ‘grey and white’ Chiffchaffs

from Alan Dean

Hello Martin and thanks for the response.

Below is a composite image showing

(a) a photo of the St Agnes, Scilly, Chiffchaff from October 2011 (the bird I have long featured in discussions as a classic example of a ‘grey and white’ Chiffchaff and with which you will be correspondingly familiar);

(b) a copy of the image by Anthony McGeehan of his suggested abietinus on Inishbofin in October 2014 (I trust Anthony is happy for me to repeat it here).

I do not suggest that either image is colour perfect nor that their appearance in the field would not vary somewhat from their depictions here. I do suggest that there is a close similarity between the two individuals in these photos and that they are ‘the same kind of beast’. I have selected an image of the St Agnes bird which has a somewhat comparable posture to the Inishbofin bird.

There are further images (and plenty of discussion!) of the St Agnes bird on my website: 

Regards, Alan


Siberian and Scandinavian Chiffchaffs

Be careful. More Questions still.

It’s become something of an enigma. Routinely recorded in old bird reports as abietinus (Scandinavian Chiffchaff), or sometimes ‘Eastern Chiffchaff’ as a catch-all for those uncertain tristis/abietinus. Birders are increasingly more savy and better informed. Siberian Chiffchaffs (tristis) are identifiable most of the time. And they are probably better classified as a full species…

Common Chiffchaff with characters of North-eastern or Scandinavian 'abietinus'. Inishbofin, Ireland, late October 2014. Anthony McGeehan

Common Chiffchaff with characters of North-eastern or Scandinavian ‘abietinus’. Inishbofin, Ireland, late October 2014. Anthony McGeehan

Common Chiffchaff- taken in Jerusalem on 19th October 2012 has similar plumage tones and themes to the Inishbofin bird above.  Martin Garner. Many/most? of the Common Chiffchaffs migrating though Israel will be abietinus.

Common Chiffchaff- taken in Jerusalem on 19th October 2012 has similar plumage tones and themes to the Inishbofin bird above. Martin Garner. Many/most? of the Common Chiffchaffs migrating though Israel will be abietinus.

We do still get birds with characters of more obvious abietinus and usually in conditions bringing other Scandinavian migrants (two memorable birds in mid October at Flamborough this year). Yet early studies showed all birds trapped in late autumn/ winter in the Netherlands and Britain and thought to be abietinus or tristis.…were all tristis.

Blessed with frustratingly good skills in photography and prose, Anthony McGeehan took these highly instructive comparative images of a stick-on Siberian and seeming Scandinavian Chiffchaffs on his haven on Inishbofin on Ireland’s west coast, in late October.

Do notice the differences- especially in ear coverts pattern and distribution of plumage tones.

The read on Siberian Chiffs is excellent- more on Anthony’s Facebook page is well worth a visit.


Topmost bird – a Common Chiffchaff with plumage tones typical of some (more obvious) Scandinavian ‘abietinus’. Many abietinus are indistinguishable form typical collybita (Magnus Hellström).

Lower 3 birds – All of the same Siberian Chiffchaff (tristis)

All photographs- Inishbofin, October 2014 by Anthony McGeehan

Siberian Chiffchaff- tristis, Inishbofin, late October 2014 by Anthony McGeehan

Siberian Chiffchaff- tristis, Inishbofin, late October 2014 by Anthony McGeehan




Desert Lesser Whitethroats

Two of ’em!

Spun Bird Observatory has had  monster autumn. Alongside some more sexy headlining birds were two halimodendri candidates. This remains a rare bird in Britian whereas the term ‘scarce’ probably fits Siberian Lesser Whitethroats (blythi).

The first was found at Easington Cemetery by Tony Disley on 14th-15th October. Here it is:

halimodenrdi e c late oct 14

The second was at the point near the VHS tower. Both called (which helps enormously in the ID) and recordings were obtained of each. Sonograms look the same and fit halimodendri nicely. Here’s the point bird. Have a listen:

Here’s the sonogram of that November point bird. Though some variation, notice the thicker introductory note followed by several thinner notes on the seconds series. It’s virtually identical to the recording featured via the QR code in the Challenge Series: AUTUMN.

lesser whitethroat spurn 13 nov 2014


Here’s that second bird (the one with the recording above)  at the point on 13th November 2014. Both photos by Dave Boyle. Can’t see all you would want to but the bill looks smallish, the primary projection looks tiny and ‘squished’ the second primary (P2) looks especially short and the outer tail  feather very white.

8C0AC5FD-A431-A6DE-6B41-8CD5F85F6749 B5E5E47E-A3EB-3F5A-9475-6DBC25AD1DD7


Back to Bird One

Here’s the bird at Easington Cemetery on 14th-15th October. Photos by Tony Disley. The first photo shows  fat rounded heading and tiny bill. Lovely! Again the primary projection looks  like its particularly short.

All this info is in the Challenge Series. Great to see records like these where lots of data obtained helping towards a much more robust ID than the old generic ‘Eastern Lesser Whitethroat’ epithet.

halimodenrdi b e c late oct 14 halimodenrdi c e c late oct 14 halimodenrdi d e c late oct 14 halimodenrdi e c late oct 14 halimodenrdi e e c late oct 14


Eastern Crowned Warbler – how it was found

Ian Kendall tells the story of finding a 3rd for Britain

It was 30th October…

…and the winds were from the south-south east, so opting for Hunley Hall Golf Course out of one of three local patches, I decided to check the plantation near to the hotel first, somewhere I rarely check. A quick circuit revealed good numbers of Blackbirds and a couple of Brambling, although little else, but just as I was leaving the wood I noticed a pale phylloscopus Warbler in the last Sycamore. It looked like it then flew across the road into some Dogwood, so I walked out to the edge of the wood to check, but couldn’t find it – hey ho, another one lost and I started to leave the wood, but as I did something made me glance back into the Sycamore and luckily the warbler was still in it. I put my bins up and was stunned to see a bulky looking green and white warbler with a couple of weak wing bars and a long parallel looking white super, upturned at the rear of the crown and my first thoughts were ‘Bloody hell Arctic’. It then came towards me and I was struck by its gleaming white underparts and the long bright super, set in much darker surrounds. ****, time for a phone call.

Eastern Crowned Warbler by Martyn Sidwell.

Eastern Crowned Warbler by Martyn Sidwell.

I phoned Mark Askew saying that I think I’ve got an Eastern Crowned, but that it may be just an Arctic. I then waited for backup and a bit of reality checking and during the wait the bird showed pretty well, at one point turning its head on its side facing away from me, showing what I was sure was a reasonably obvious central crown stripe. Its legs looked pale, in particular the feet (all I could see of the legs in one view) and at one point the bird was right overhead and the broad based bill was wholly orange underneath. Things were now getting serious and I didn’t have to wait too long before Graham Megson arrived, but the bird had moved further into the wood and had disappeared. He’d interpreted Mark’s phone call as Eastern Bonelli’s, so when I was waffling on about confusion with Arctic, he must have thought they were the ramblings of a mad man. Quickly back on track Ian Boustead arrived next, so we spilt up and tried to relocate the bird.

I was blissfully unaware of the “On this day”….coincidence, with the Herts record, not that, I’d necessarily go out with a view to finding an Eastern Crowned and frankly a Yellow-browed would have been more than my expectations for the day. Anyway, back to reality – after a few minutes Ian Boustead shouted and came running up the path with the kind of athleticism only shown in the presence of a rare bird, saying he’d seen it and it was sure it was an Eastern Crowned. We found Graham watching the bird and over the next half hour or so we all got reasonable views, but agreed the crown looked entirely plain olive green and so by now, we were convincing ourselves it was Arctic. Mark Rowbottom was next on the scene and after a few more views I’d now clearly seen a broad off white patch at the rear of the crown, although this didn’t look like it extended to more than a square patch. However, along with the gleaming white underparts it convinced me it had to be Eastern Crowned. What was going on, this was now getting frustrating. Mark was the voice of reason though and suggested we now needed to do something – after all even Arctic hadn’t been seen in the county for 18 years, so either way others needed to see it and we needed to make a decision, but a hard call for such a rare bird.

Mark’s voice of reason lead to a flurry of activity; comparison of some of the photos Ian had skilfully managed to get of the bird, with internet photos, a few calls to people who could get to site to help confirm what we were seeing, quick chat with RBA and a conversation with the hotel staff over parking arrangements.

Eastern Crowned Warbler by Martyn Sidwell.

Eastern Crowned Warbler by Martyn Sidwell.

Dave Aitken was also on his way from Flamborough with various it is, it isn’t phone calls to him and he stopped to text me Martin Garner’s details. Martin (an old Poly mate) and I had a useful few discussions and I’d gleaned a few useful pointers to help us reason what we were looking at – the dark olive crown sides fitted with the ‘almost Sedge Warbler like feel to the head’, the lower mandible clearly lacked a dark tip and the primary projection was short, making the bird feel quite heavily front ended. Also, the lemon undertail coverts were supposed to be a clincher and I hadn’t really seen that, but one of Ian Boustead’s photos seemed to show it and just after looking at the photo the bird moved through the canopy and they seemed to be there. Time now to walk the dog and during my check of the wider golf course, others, including Tom Francis arrived and confirmed the presence of lemon undertail coverts and this, combined with the suite of other features we’d seen meant it was ‘good to go’.

Eastern Crowned Warbler by Martyn Sidwell.

Eastern Crowned Warbler by Martyn Sidwell.

A little chat with the hotel staff too, to change from Arctic (a few cars) to Eastern Crowned (a few more cars).

As more people turned it could be frustratingly difficult to pick up at times and moved around a bit sluggishly, not dissimilar to Red-eyed Vireo. In the afternoon it vanished for over an hour and had moved to the far side of the wood, where it was thankfully re-found by Mark Askew (much to his huge relief) in a large leafy Sycamore, although even then it was still difficult and some people were unable to get on it, not helped by the assault course like nature of this part of the wood and the fading light. Fortunately it remained pretty faithful to the corner of the wood where it was first found for much of the rest of its stay and showed well in some fine sunshine through to Saturday evening but departed overnight. At times on the Friday it was calling a lot, sounding pretty much like a weak Bullfinch and Trevor Charlton heard a fairly hard alarm call at one point.

It was a fine looking creature, with some cracking features – the dark olive lateral sides of the crown, the clean white underparts, lemony undertail coverts, the bright fringes to the flight feathers, the often obscured median crown stipe and pale lower mandible – all easy to see in a relaxed state, but the leap from a phone-call to a mate to a phone call to the wider world in a state of trembling excitement was a reasonably big one. Thanks to those who helped in the process on confirming the bird, you know who you are.

Cleveland can pay rewards for endless hours of patch working and to that I’m grateful and suffice it to say I’ll be checking the wood just a little bit more often in the future.