Category Archives: 18) Warblers, Crests, Wrens

European Lesser Whitethroat

 

 nominate curruca

With a fair bit of talk about blythi- Siberian Lesser Whitethroat- on the blog recently I felt the need to bring some basics; helped by this little fella on my patio a few days ago. I can’ be 100% sure but this fits my search image for European Lesser Whitethroat just fine. I think that’s what it is (as opposed to Siberian).

Compare with THIS BIRD and info

Here’ s a little showcase of what the common expected taxon looks like- to help me be prepared for the rare stuff. For more on separating European, Siberian and Desert Lesser Whitethroats see The Challenge Series: AUTUMN.

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough with freshly caught 'daddy long legs'

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough with freshly caught ‘daddy long legs’

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. Nominate birds tend to look greyer headed with whiter underparts

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. Nominate birds tend to look greyer headed with whiter underparts

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. In profile

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. In profile

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. From behind can still show brown up the nape so field views at variety of angles important to gain overall impression of plumage

Lesser Whitethroat 20th September, Flamborough. From behind can still show brown up the nape so field views at variety of angles important to gain overall impression of plumage

Lesser Whitethroat 16th September, Flamborough. A few days earlier a scruffy bird in Old Fall hedge. tail feathers moulting- just shows what can be caught on camera with a bit of luck :)

Lesser Whitethroat 16th September, Flamborough. A few days earlier a scruffy bird in Old Fall hedge. tail feathers moulting- just shows what can be caught on camera with a bit of luck :)

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat. blythi update

DNA confirms they DO occur earlier (as suspected)

Sticking one’s neck out can be a bit risky. Claiming Siberian Lesser Whitethroats in the first week of September might sound a bit rash. Yet the characters seemed to be there. One bird at Spurn over the Migration Festival and one at Flamborough 7th-8th Sept.

Why so cool (BTW)?

It’s got SIBERIAN in the name and molecular data suggests blythi should be treated as different species from European nominate birds. And they are a great ID challenge.

Here’s the Flamborough bird again:

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat Flamborough 8th Sept 2014

More on the Flamborough bird is here

Lots more on identifying Siberian and Desert Lesser Whitethroat in THIS BOOK!

Peter de Knijff sent a most encouraging email with this remarkable news:

A Siberian Lesser Whitethroat was trapped and confirmed by DNA in the Netherlands on 26/27th August 2014.  Very cool!

A second bird also reported as DNA confirmed blythi in Europe in August. So we were on the money. As autumn progress more blythi will occur and less nominate curruca. Are you ready?

There have been a scattering of records of apparent candidates in the last week inc. in east Scotland (Darren Woodhead), Filey (Mark Pearson) and Norfolk (Richard Milllington. Where will yours be? :)

Some shots of the Spurn bird on 7th Sept by Sam Viles:

ELWELW 6ELW 4

 

One at Portland Bird Observatory on 13th September this year proved interesting. Thanks to Joe Stockwell and Martin Cade for their input. This bird had less striking plumage than the Spurn and Flamborough birds (though think prob. OK for blythi) and short p2. Martin does a superb job at photographing birds in the hand.

bp_lwt_130914_whole_4bp_lwt_130914_open_wing bp_lwt_130914_tail bp_lwt_130914_closed_wing bp_lwt_130914_wing_point_1

He does a very useful thing with white balance settings in the last 3 shots. This illustrates that photos can be quite misleading. Appearance in the field is what counts- more tips on watching and fieldcraft with Lesser Whitethroats in the Challenge Series: AUTUMN

bp_lwt_130914_whole_3 bp_lwt_130914_whole_2 bp_lwt_130914_whole_1

 

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat – blythi

Spurn and Flamborough on 6th September 2014

Not expected. I mean it seems awful early. The earliest confirmed Siberian (blythi) is 10th September, in Shetland. Perhaps some are earlier this year. Perhaps they have been overlooked in the past? It’s a bit manic since we have moved to Flamborough- birders all over my driveway today for an obliging Red-breasted Flycatcher in the sycamore across the road. Baltic Gull and Caspian Gull mania too. So apologies for lack of stuff-  I am going to have to learn to blog a bit quicker :). Hope its OK. (Red-breasted Fly is still visible in sycamore as I type- this is so cool!)

The first apparent/ candidate blythi was last Sunday 7th September at the Spurn Migration Festival. I think Pim Wolf had at least something to do with it. It was a ‘brown’ headed Lesser Whitethroat and photos of upperside of outermost tail feather appear to show it mostly gleaming white. It looked a good candidate to me. I then returned to Flamborough and found one on Monday 8th Sept. The same bird had actually be seen by Anthony Capuano on the Sunday. So 2 blythi candidates, Flamborough and Spurn-both turned up on the same day

Picking one out:

Chatting with Pim and comparing own notes. Sure there are caveats but the brush strokes seem to be that nominate curruca has whiter underparts- less contrast tween white throat and unders- often white bleeds from throat all way down central unders. Some blythi types more buff tones below with stronger contrast with marked white throat. Subtle but can catch the eye.

Head looks roughly brown headed on blythi type, blue headed on young curruca.That’s wildly overstating it but I find it a useful handle. You have to practice on curruca which can be quite pallid headed but the soft grey tone of head tends to be more uniform over head (apart from central nape versus overall browner head with more restricted ‘blue’ on blythi types. It’s a working hypothesis.

Once you see an interesting one- 3 things to look for. rattle call, wing formula and tail pattern. It’s all written up and beautifully illustrated in the Challenge series: AUTUMN.

Here was my first chance to test it this autumn. Here’s the Flamborough bird on Monday 8th September. call infrequent tack only. Tail feathers not well seen. But wing formula photographed to some useful degree.

P.S. taxonomically, blythi- Siberian Lesser Whitethroat may well be best treated as full species. So one worth looking for! Lots more info in THE BOOK!

So here’s a normal looking ‘nominate’ curruca on 4th September in me Flamborough garden. Powdery grey over head and rather white unders

4 sept european lesser whitethroat

 

and here’s the brown headed bird at Flamborough on 8th September. Looks like one to me!!

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat Flamborough 8th Sept 2014

check out the head and underparts:

Siberian Lesser Whitethroat b Flamborough 8th Sept 2014Siberian Lesser Whitethroat c Flamborough 8th Sept 2014

So the wing formula. P2 looks short- about p6/p7 or even = p7

LW 3 Flamb 8.9.14

here’s the wing of a nominate curruca at same angle, the next day (9th Sept) at Ottenby Bird Obs (thanks to the wonderful Magnus Hellstrom)

curruca Ottenbycompare

Fifteen of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

Reed Warblers- four different ones, all potential finds this autumn. I have 3 on my own find list. Just need the ‘new one’. Reed Warbler, Caspian Reed Warbler- one at Spurn or Flamborough please! ;) , Blyth’s Reed Warbler and Marsh Warbler. All covered in chapter fifteen.

For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

Below, a fond memory from spring 2013:

Blyth's Reed Warbler h Fetlar May 2013

Thirteen of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

Subalpine Warblers. 3 new species with wide post breeding dispersals. Plumage, calls and them wee tail patterns. And they always look beautiful.

For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

 

Adult male Eastern Subalpine Warbler October Martin Garner

Adult male Eastern Subalpine Warbler October Martin Garner

 

Twelve of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

Lesser Whitethroats. 3 types reach western and northern Europe each autumn. This is a Birding Frontier. Who dares wins.

For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

 

These are getting easier to sort out…

 

probable Siberian Lesser Whitethroat blythi, October. Martin Garner

probable Siberian Lesser Whitethroat blythi, October. Martin Garner

Eleven of Eighteen

The Challenge Series: AUTUMN

That dynamic duo, the Common Chiffchaff and the Siberian Chiffchaff. Going back to the drawing board  a lot with this crowd!

For more on the content and how to buy the book click HERE.

 

check out them ear coverts:

 

Siberian Chiffchaff by Tristan Reid http://www.theinkednaturalist.co.uk/

Siberian Chiffchaff by Tristan Reid http://www.theinkednaturalist.co.uk/