Category Archives: 18) Warblers, Crests, Wrens

Iberian Chiffchaff to compare


This post is reblogged from 2010. It contains recordings of the typical song, some variant and conflict songs and muted/poor recording of the  call. I saw the bird’s finder this am. He only went and found another, same place last week! I was mindful of this bird detailed by Richard Ford of another intriguing and confusing Chiffchaff songster from a couple of weeks ago

Grimston, East Yorkshire, June 2010

To compare. Getting a head around variation in wacky singing Chiffchaffs, so-called mixed singers and real (and variable) Iberian Chiffchaffs has proved testing (again) this spring. Having been asked to comment on birds in Sussex and Cambridge and still being an early stage learner myself, I revisited this bird. Found by Tim Isherwood at Grimston, East Yorkshire in June 2012, it represents, I suppose, the ideal, or at least, easier vagrant Iberian Chiffchaff. Looks and sounds the part – both song and call- without too much head scratching; indeed hearing one burst of song seemed to nail it.

The last bit of the Cambridge bird’s song here reminded me of what I recorded as ‘conflict’ song for the Grimston bird- given in response to short burst of ‘pishing’ (see sonagram and recording 5 below). The Cambridge bird clearly has elements of Iberian song ( I have only listened to the video,) no news there but there is lively and increasing illuminating discussion on this channel. The sobering comments by sharp (and annoyingly young) Spanish birder, Dani V are well worth a read.

The Sussex bird seems even less appealing and an analysis of sonagrams by David Cooper points more to variant Common Chiffchaff on that one.

Another thing? The Grimston bird at one stage called repeatedly in response to pishing-  the downslurred note of  Iberian (‘song and call’ below). Worth a pish next time?


Iberian Chiffchaff normal song one – You can listen to the song <HERE>

(above) Iberian Chiffchaff normal song one

Iberian Chiffchaff normal song two – You can listen to the song <HERE>

(above) Iberian Chiffchaff ‘normal song’ two

Iberian Chiffchaff song and call – You can listen to the song and call <HERE>

(above) Iberian Chiffchaff  song and call (call is present as on sonagram but a little quiet)

Iberian Chiffchaff, song variation – You can listen to the song <HERE>

(above) Iberian Chiffchaff, song variation

Iberian Chiffchaff, presumed conflict song – You can listen to the song <HERE>

(above) Iberian Chiffchaff, presumed conflict song- given in response to ‘pishing’


Bermuda phylloscopus Warbler: Another look

and listen!

Martin Garner and David Cooper

The phylloscopus warbler found wintering on Bermuda has already attracted enormous interest. With zero phylloscopus previously recorded on the east coast of North America- what was it and where was it from?

The slightly confusing mix of characters visible in photos including active wing moult leading to some head scratching. Only Willow Warbler and Arctic Warbler are normally in active pre-breeding moult and when the calls were finally captured it was sorted- an Arctic Warbler. I think the general assumption too was that it was a Eurasian bird- of the nominate form ‘borealis’, least that was in MG’s head.

See the Original Post asking for help with ID (before sound recorded)


More images were added HERE


Then after sound recording the ID conclusion was written up HERE Bermuda Arctic Warbler the Bermuda Arctic Warbler - but which taxon and from where?


The call never sounded right. That’s to say that one of the best places to see Arctic Warbler this side of the pond in autumn is Shetland. And they always or nearly so give a single dipper-like slightly raspy call ‘dzik’. A single note. The Bermuda Warbler often/ most frequently gave a double note. I checked with Roger Riddington and Paul Harvey who have seen lots of Arctic Warblers. Invariably only uttering single notes bar one late bird 2 autumns ago which occasionally gave a double note.     XC168678-Phylloscopus Warbler Bermuda (1).png double n single Sonagram of Bermuda Arctic Warbler giving both single and double notes XC168678-Phylloscopus Warbler Bermuda (1)Sonagram of Bermuda Arctic Warbler giving typical double notes


With David Cooper, we began to compare the Bermuda bird with other ‘Arctic Warbler’ taxa. We started with the 3 way split including borealis, examinandus and xanthodryas. See the paper explaining the split. It sounded closest to examinandus, but not quite right (better heard than looking at double note sonogram.). The Bermuda bird was then compared with calls of the Alaskan form kennicotti. Bingo/ snap. At least we think so.

Have a listen look at sonograms, consider the very late extra yellow visible on the Bermuda bird.

Listen to: Kamchatka Leaf Warbler examinandus, Arctic Warbler borealis and Japanese Leaf Warbler xanthodryas  >>> HERE <<< 

Listen to: Alaskan kennicotti >>> HERE <<<

Listen to: the Bermuda Arctic warbler >>> HERE <<<

Oh and if kennicotti can reach Bermuda- a shorter distance, great circle route could take kennicotti to… Shetland, or the Outer Hebrides or pretty much anywhere in Britain. #just saying.


Williamson (1962) states ‘P. borealis is a variable species, and the only forms which show any degree of constancy are kennicotti and xanthodryas, and these are valid on bill-structure as much as colouration.
P. borealis kennicotti
This race is similar to borealis, though perhaps yellower below. It has a weak bill more like that of Greenish. Vaurie gives the following measurements: wing 62-69, bill 12.5-14.5; first-winter birds are often smaller.
Maybe that’s why some plumped for Greenish Warbler?

Alaskan kennicotti and taxonomy?

One might further ask the question whether the taxonomy of Kennicott’s Warbler..kennicotti needs a re-appraisal…

Bermuda Phyllosc-DSC_9675 The Bermuda Arctic Warbler- best fit kennicotti...   XC140995-Arctic Warbler2013-6-9-3 kennicotti 2 kennicotti Arctic Warbler XC140993-Arctic Warbler2013-6-9-1 kennicotti 4 kennicotti Arctic Warbler. Sonagram and sound virtually identical to Bermuda phyllosc. XC140994-Arctic Warbler2013-6-9-2 kennni 94kennicotti Arctic Warbler- some recordings contain single notes too


Akihiro Sakuma from Japan kindly commented as follows::

Oh! It’s very difficult to identify what ‘ Arctic Warbler ‘.
But for me  it seems to be ‘kennicotti ‘.

‘borealis‘ upperparts  are more dark green colour and underparts dusky
without yellowish, and also some streaks on its breast.
But this ‘Arctic Warbler’ s underparts yellowish and without streaks on its

‘examinudus’ also has yellowish underparts but is not smart proportion like
this ‘Arctic Warbler’
And this ‘Arctic Warbler’ call is not like ‘examinandus’ ( Kamchatka Leaf

So I think this  Arctic Warbler ‘ is  ‘kennicotti ‘,  and  as  its
underparts and supercilium are yellowish, it seems to be 1st winter .

Bermuda Phyllosc-DSC_9691

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