Category Archives: 18) Warblers, Crests, Wrens

Lesser Whitethroat at Northampton

ticks blythi boxes

David Jackson and Mike Alibone

David wrote a week ago, 11th March (and I am slow to catch up!).  After a 7 week gap this Lesser Whitethroat reappeared in his garden. As we learn about these things and are able to obtain pretty tricky data like tail feathers patterns. it all helps! This birds structure, outer tail and briefly heard rattle call point in the blythi direction nicely- such as we are learning :)

“Well, there’s a turn up for the books. The potential Sibe Lesser Whitethroat turned up in my garden again this morning for the first time since Jan 22nd much to my surprise. In better light conditions and 6 weeks on I noticed some additional features including the outer tail feathers.

In strong sunlight it showed dark ear coverts with brown feathering on the forehead, the flanks didn’t look as pink as before and that all important outer tail feather looks white but with a darker smudge along the inner web of the distal half and a dark shaft.



We have a Winner

Heads N Tails Quiz

3 competitors survived and correctly identified the tiebreak bird. Which impressed me deeply! Seriously I have seen quite a few of these and they don’t look much like Reed Warblers a lot of the time- way to olivey toned above and Marsh Warbler-like. So impressed I was!2014-03-09_013941

Huge thanks the to our leading seabirders in Bob Flood and Ashley Fisher of Scilly Pelagics who donated these 2 superb and innovative multimedia prizes for the quiz and conservation:


The Tiebreak bird is a Caspian Reed Warbler aka ‘fuscus’ Reed Warbler.

Chris Batty, Jon Holt and Nick Moran each continued on form by correctly identifying the tiebreak bird. This left only one option. Each was given a number and Sharon G. drew from the proverbial hat.

Chris Batty was drawn the winner. Commiseration to Jon and Nick- who ‘did enough’. Dang! Thanks to all who took part… and if you haven’t yet and would like to give to our BIRDING FRONTIERS team effort- please do us proud- and give to our Birdlife Conservation efforts. We are going for bust to reach £2000 by the end of the month. More here:

Please give to great conservation effort >>>> HERE <<<<


Some… Caspian Reed Warblers ‘fuscus’

Extra challenge from the Autumn in Israel

Extra challenge from the Autumn in Israel

caspian reed oneno 2 fuscus Reed Warbler c Hula Valley N Israel Nov 2012no 2 fuscus Reed Warbler a Hula Valley N Israel Nov 2012

Bermuda Phylloscopus — final chapter?

Thanks to some persistence from Wendy Frith, who finally got some audio recordings, it appears that the identification of the Phylloscopus warbler on Bermuda has been nailed down: Arctic Warbler. Andrew Dobson has photos and audio links in his eBird checklist, which also gives a nice sense of the other birds at the site. Obviously some defended this identification at the outset. With the benefit of hindsight, please do add your comments to how this might have been identified if the audio recordings had not been obtained.

For those that use eBird for record keeping worldwide, please note how photos, audio recordings, and field notes can be combined on a checklist like this, which also contributes to your personal record keeping and global database. For example, here is the ever growing range map for Arctic Warbler. Your additional records will help to make this map (and others) even more complete.

This is a new record for Bermuda and the first record for Arctic Warbler on the North American side of the Atlantic Basin. If anything, this record has been instructive (for us North Americans anyway!) as to just how difficult some Phylloscopus can be and just how important the calls are to confirming the identification. Congratulations to our Bermuda colleagues who stuck with this one and finally nailed it!

Here is one of Andrew’s more recent photos, but do be sure to check out the full set.

Bermuda Arctic Warbler

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat in Sheffield

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat (blythi) 

551684_229118147197285_1266715587_nHooray for garden Birdwatchers!

Another January rare bid was found credit to a Sheffield couple caring for and enjoying their wintering garden birds.

First noted on 14th Jan visiting feeders in a private garden in suburban Sheffield. The owners were intrigued.

LesserWhitethroat blythi sheffield

Suspected of being one of the ‘eastern’ races, permission was received from BTO to attempt to ring the bird, and its liking for mealworms meant the first attempt by Sorby Breck ringers on 2nd Feb was successful. A couple of body feathers dislodged during processing, and these were collected and sent to Dr Martin Collinson for dna analysis.

The results have recently become available, and confirm the bird to be of the blythi subspecies, aka ‘Siberian Lesser Whitethroat’, details as follows:

  “Genetically it falls into the blythi clade, only 3 bp (base pairs) different from sequences of birds assigned to blythi from Kazakhstan, and 3-11 bp different from other blythi from across SE Russia.“

The Siberian Lesser Whitethroat also features on the >>> SBSG Facebook page <<< together with their other big news:

New bird, new BOOK

The new bird for the Sheffield area co-coincides with a new book in the same month! Fantastic team of dedicated birders, this is patch watching extreme!

Breeding Birds of The Sheffield Area, including the north-east Peak District – published January 2014

Atlas cover smaller

Available here. Review on Birding Frontiers coming soon.

Bermuda Phylloscopus — additional images

Andrew Dobson provided this more extensive set of images from his original observation of the Bermuda Phyllscopus. He reports that no one has yet heard it vocalize, but they will keep trying. Hopefully the bird will be around for a while longer and complete its molt!

In the meantime, here are more photos to discuss:

DSC_9705 DSC_9681 DSC_9704 DSC_9695 DSC_9690 DSC_9682 DSC_9680 DSC_9678

Bermuda Phylloscopus — ID help needed!

Bermuda is one of the planet’s best vagrant traps, a completely isolated North Atlantic island about 1045 kilometers ESE of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The island’s relatively small size (53 square kilometers) and the absence of other nearby islands surely adds to its power as a vagrant trap. A good system of roads and limited fresh water make the best spots fairly straightforward to check, and a year-round cadre of keen birders are consistently turning up new surprises. That said, few North Americans visit specifically to seek vagrants, largely because it is not included in the ABA Area, which for many in the U.S. and Canada is still the most important listing region. With 361+ species and counting, it certainly deserves more coverage…

The Phylloscopus in the below photos was found by Wendy Frith and David Wingate in the Port Royal/Pompano dump area of Bermuda on 18 February 2014. Andrew Dobson returned the following morning and got these photos. To our knowledge, the calls have not yet been heard or audio recorded. Opinions on the identification have been divided thus far, so we invite Frontiers readers to help nail this one down.

Bermuda Phyllosc-DSC_9675 Bermuda Phyllosc-DSC_9696 Bermuda Phyllosc-DSC_9697 Bermuda Phyllosc-DSC_9691 Bermuda Phyllosc-DSC_9707


Phylloscopus in North America

Within North America, Arctic Warbler (Phylloscopus borealis kennicotti) breeds in mainland Alaska, and is a common migrant on some Bering Sea islands, such as St. Lawrence Island. All other species are vagrants. Alaska has vagrant records (almost entirely in fall) of Pallas’s Warbler (1), Yellow-browed Warbler (8+), Willow Warbler (11+), ‘Siberian’ Chiffchaff (2-3 records), Wood Warbler (3), Dusky Warbler (20+)–almost all from the western Aleutians, St. Lawrence Island (Gambell), or St. Paul Island (one of the Pribilof Islands). and Arctic Warbler, which breeds. The status of Kamchatka Leaf-Warbler (Phyllscopus examinandus)–not yet split by the American Ornithologists’ Union but clearly deserving of a split since Alstrom et al. (2011)–is not well known but is summarized to the best of current understanding by Howell, Lewington, and Russell (2014). It is at least a rare to casual spring migrant and very rare fall vagrant on the western Aleutians.

Away from Alaska, California has 7 fall records of Arctic Warbler (although some or all of those may refer to Kamchatka Leaf-Warbler) and an impressive 13 Dusky Warbler records, all from fall. Mexico actually has more Phylloscopus species than California, with two records of Dusky Warbler, one of Arctic (or Kamchatka Leaf-Warbler), and one record of Yellow-browed Warbler, all from the Baja California Peninsula. Otherwise, there is but a single sight record of Yellow-browed Warbler from the mid-continent, in Wisconsin. Greenland, a waypoint between Iceland and North America, has one record of Willow Warbler, from Hold With Hope, Myggbukta, 18 Sep 1937 (Boertmann 1994).

Obviously, a record of any Phylloscopus from Bermuda is a highly significant record and a first record for the island. Although a variety of Palearctic shorebirds, herons, waterfowl, and even raptors have appeared here, Palearctic passerine records have been very few. One of the more remarkable was a Dark-sided Flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica) collected 28 September 1980
(Wingate 1983).

Please comment on the ID

With all that in mind, opinions on the identification of this Phylloscopus would be most welcome. Opinions thus far have been divided, so we could use some help from Palearctic birders who have a much better handle on this genus. The Frontiers audience is certainly better suited to comment than almost any other community in the world, so please give us your thoughts, along with supportive field marks that you see in these photos.


Siberian Chiffchaff in Japan

David Cooper and Akihiro Sakuma
Siberian Chiffchaff at Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, Japan (Akihiro Sakuma)

Siberian Chiffchaff at Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, Japan (Akihiro Sakuma)

For those that have followed the evolving identification criteria of tristis Chiffchaffs over the last few years here’s the appearance of one ‘at the other end of the Palearctic’ currently wintering in Japan and also a link to one we found on Hegura-jima, Japan in October 2010:
With their  buff supercilia lacking yellow, hint of dark lateral crown-stripes, brownish ear-coverts, grey-brown upperparts, dark alula, faint pale greater covert wingbar, greenish fringes to their secondaries and tail feathers, dark centred tertials, pale underparts lacking yellow, pale yellow marginal underwing coverts and black legs and feet they conform rather nicely to expectations. In addition, the Hegura bird continually called the rather quiet thin monosyllabic ‘lost chick’ call. Whilst it is still considered a vagrant to Japan (we met the finder, Toshikazu Onishi, of the ‘first for Japan’ whilst on Hegura) it would seem highly-likely they originate from considerably further east than the Urals. Certainly Brazil (2009) considers tristis to be the only taxon of the group likely to occur – he actually considers tristis a monotypic species…
Siberian Chiffchaff at Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, Japan (Akihiro Sakuma)

Siberian Chiffchaff at Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, Japan (Akihiro Sakuma)