Thursday 10 September 2020

Mystery bird - everyday is a schoolday

Everyday is a schoolday, well today was certainly a schoolday for me. 

Picture the scene...

I arrive early at Druridge, the sun has just come up over the sea, so it's not over the dunes yet and it's gloomy still. I step out of the car and hear a bird singing from the bushes - I think I recognise it, but I'm not sure and certainly can't put a species to it. I go and investigate,  I can't record it because the voice recorder app on my phone hasn't updated or something - typical.  the song was almost Sylvia warbler like, but 'jangly' and metallic like a corn bunting. The bird is still deep in cover. 

Something flies out of the willow and lands close by,  I fire off a few shots but it's not properly light - ISO 3200 so not great. I'm still stumped. Looks like a dumpy warbler with thick pink legs, Cetti's have thick pink legs...but it wan't right for Cetti's. I was still stumped, so I sent a very poor BoC shot to a couple of people. It never showed again and stopped singing a soon as the sun came out. I continued on.

I downloaded the photos this evening and lightened them up a bit. Not a Cetti's - that's for sure. Was it a Locustella warbler? It looked un-streaked and the pink legs and song threw me off the trail. Was it a warbler at all, could it be a Sprosser? Some of it looked right for Sprosser, some didn't. I sent the photos to Mike Carr and Neil Osbourne to see if they could help. 

Mystery Bird
A different angle

We chewed over the possibility of Sprosser but something didn't look right but what was it? Neil went back to Locustella, on closer examination of the photo, some of the coverts appear to have dark centers and Grasshopper Warblers can have pink rather than orange-pink legs. Did the gloom just make it look dark and what about that song?

Neil eventually nailed it with a song from Xeno Canto - which is exactly what I heard - a sub-song of a juvenile Grasshopper Warbler, I've never heard this before. Here is a link to the song - it's worth a listen.

As they say, you live and learn, especially in birding. Big thanks to Mike and Neil for their help.

There were a lot of Chiffchaffs this morning on the sunny edge of the bushes, I counted at least 12 between the path and the Dunbar Burn. There was also Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and Blackcap and two Spotted Flycatchers

One the many Chiffchaffs
And another looking at a fly

Reed Warbler

One of two Spotted Flycatchers

There was less viz-mig than previous mornings but the Meadow Pipit passage increased as the morning went on (I left at 08.30 with a count of 58) and a single Tree Pipit went over. Hardly any hirrundines though and most of the Swallows were local birds. 

There were a lot of birds around the new-ish ditch by the Dunbar Burn, using the fence as a perch. Meadow Pipits were stopping to drink and bathe and they were joined by a single juvenile Whinchat, Linnets, Goldfinches, Skylark, Reed Buntings and Stonechats. Worth watching this ditch I reckon, it could get a Bluethroat.

This Robin was enjoying the early sunshine - I've read that they do this rid themselves of parasites. 

Robin - enjoying the sun

Full list here

More photos...

Small White

Speckled Wood

Kestrel over

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