Anders Faugstad Mæland – birdwatchingnorway.net
“On the afternoon of 12 november my focus was on…
…the Pipits. I choice to go to Rakke, on the Brunlanes peninsula in Larvik, Vestfold. Having seen Water– and Richard`s Pipits in the old military area before, I had a good feeling. November has offered me quite a few surprises during the years..
Just before sunset I was approaching a small beach, when I got aware of a small bird sitting on the ground, right towards the sun. In a split second I was thinking what the Treecreeper did there…Thru the bins I saw a small, fluffy and pale warbler, with a long tail. When it turned the head and showed me it`s yellow eye…..Desert Warbler!! I got a few record shots, and my eyes was not lying, a dream was about to be real! I Sneaked towards an old rock wall that it had jumped behind. There it appeared just three meters from me, actively feeding in the roadside and on naked rocks. It was very tame and come within 2 meters range. It was surreal to study this fantastic bird, in the last light of day, at my local patch!
After enjoying it for 20 minutes, it flew behind a svaberg (smooth rock). Now the sun was almost down and I got home to alarm the tribe (yes, I did forgot my phone back home)
The Desert Warbler has been a long-awaited bird for the Norwegian list, and on top of the wishlist for many birders. The birders in Norway is not many, but very persistant. Several cars left the West-coast and drove the whole night, others flew early Friday morning. About 50+ persons was early at Rakke and the “Nana” was soon relocated, at the same spot. After a while it disappeared before it was found again, at a small peninsula near by. During the weekend lots of people arrived and the star was stable in the same area, often showing very well. On Saturday the wind was hard and the water very high, making the peninsula into an island. Some late arriving birders were unable to cross, while others fall into the cold water on the return! Most of the birders saw it good and there were many happy familiar faces!
I was surprised how small it was and how fast it moved, almost like a Wren. It often leaned forwards with the belly close to the ground and the tail in the air. It seems to preferred open rocky areas as long as it was little wind. It preferred a little reed bed when the wind got stronger. There it was very skulky, but still tame.
It gave a very pale impression. The dark alula was obvious and so was the starry eye.
The legs was bright yellow and the scales made a banded impression .The white eyering was broken behind and in front of the eye, on an otherwise pale buff – grey head. It sometimes looked very big headed. The bill yellow and rather long. The lower mandible was all bright yellow, while the upper was grey with yellow sides.
The outer tail feathers was strikingly white in flight, but harder to see on the ground. The tale was very worn and it often looked clearly forked, with pointed tips.
The red tale and rump contrasting with the pale grey back and the rufus toned wings, made me comfortable that it was an Asian Desert Warbler.
Asian or African?
The Asian (Sylvia nana) – and African Desert Warbler (S. deserti) are rather similar and was previously considered as one species.
Some distinctive plumage differences can tell them apart:
1) The Asian is generally more contrasting rufus / grey while the African is more evenly colored light warm brown. The Asian has rufus GC and PC and rufus edges to dark PP and SS. The tertials are dark brown with contrasting rufus edges.
2)This gives the wings a rufus impression contrasting to the pale gray back.
3) Under not-ideal light can the Asian look very evenly colored, both live and on pictures. This is the case for the Rakke bird (still present 15.11.15). The tertials pattern might be the best to look for then. (Contrasting = Nana, evenly = Deserti)
4) The Asian has a red/rufus tale and rump wish stand in contrast to the greyish back and off-white belly. The African has an evenly colored back and a whiter belly.
5) The Asian also have dark shaft on the middle tail feathers. This character can be hard to see and are not visible on all the pictures of the Rakke bird.
6) The leg color can also give an idea. The Asian has bright yellow legs while the African has more yellowish pink legs.
The Asian Desert Warbler breeds in a large area ,from the north and east side of the Caspian sea and C Iran, east to S Mongolia and NW China. The wintering area are from the west coast of the Red sea, and Arabia, east to NW India.
It is a very rare vagrant to Europe. Most records are from Sweden (15), while Great Britain has 12 and Finland 11 records (According to Tarsiger.com). The Netherlands third record occurred in the same period as the Rakke bird. Late October and November is the best time, but there are also a few spring records, mainly in May.
The African Desert warbler breeds in NW Africa. It is considered to be a short distance migrator. A record from The Netherlands in November 2014, shows that it can also be a candidate in northern Europe.
The coastline outside Larvik in SE Norway is a great birding area. Here lies Mølen Ornithological Station, one of the oldest bird observatories in Norway. The passerine migration here, can be compared to Falsterbo. During the years several “megas” and “new for Norway” has showed up here. Among them are the famous wintering Willet (prob. Eastern!) in 1992-93.
Birdwatching Norway offers birding tours to Norway and Sweden.
Varanger in the arctic Norway, is a fantastic area and a “must see destination”for all birders. Here the arctic and high alpine species meet the eastern. You will enjoy taiga forests, tundra, spectacular fjords and birdcliffs.
Falsterbo, in southern Sweden is one of the best migration points in the World! On a good day hundreds of thousands of birds pass you on close range. Standing at the most narrow tip you feel like standing in a stream of birds!
Southern Norway has an impressive biodiversity. High mountains, deep forests and costal migration points are all within close range from the capital Oslo.
The tours can be costume made.