EVERY WEEK IN 2017 WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST.
This week, it is Sylvia warblers
This week it is the turn of a group of larger, chunkier warblers, which includes some of the more boldly patterned species (though, as with most warblers, they could be lumped as ‘little brown jobs’, or LBJs), as well as one or two sexually dimorphic species (ie males and females look different). We have five regular species; Blackcaps and Dartford Warblers can be found throughout the year. The other three are essentially summer visitors, arriving in spring and leaving in autumn. At this time of year , they often feed up on soft fruit, such as blackberries to pack in the energy required for migration.
A grey brown warbler with a black cap has to be a Blackcap. The only possible confusion is with marsh and Willow Tit, but, these a. look like tits and b. have black ‘bib’s, unlike the Blackcap. Females and youngsters have red-brown caps. The song is a rich, fluty warbler with harsh note. The call a harsh ‘tack’.
Similar in colour and size and indeed often in habitat to the Blackcap, but without the black (or brown) cap, the chunky Garden Warbler is famous for its general lack of distinctive features. There is a hint of grey on the sides of the nape and a bit of a staring, beady, eye, but otherwise, this is a grey-brown above, paler below sort of bird. The song is like a more drawn out bubbly version of the Blackcap’s, and the call is softer.
A resident species, the tiny, long-tailed Dartford Warbler is mainly a bird of true acid heathland, with gorse and heather, in the south of England (further north is too cold in winter for this tiddler). Breeding males are rich wine-red below and dark brown-grey above. Red eye-ring. Females and youngsters and winter birds are duller. Lacks white outer feathers in the frequently cocked long tail. Call is a harsh ‘charr’ and the song is a scratchy warbler. Often very shy and retiring.
Very common summer visitor, the long-tailed Whitethroat is a familiar bird producing familiar sounds. Easily told from the similar Lesser Whitethroat by longer tail, rufous in wing and pinky flush to breast and pale legs. Males have greyer heads and clearer white eyerings. Sings a scratchy song from a scrubby bush or in a short song flight. Call a scolding, nasal ‘churr’
Like a smaller, greyer, more compact Whitethroat, lacking any warm tones (eg there is no rufous in the wings). Often very shy and retiring, but will come out to feed in autumn. Legs are black, tail moderate length (not long) and there is often a hint of a darker ear covert ‘mask’. Call is a similar ‘tack’ to that of Blackcap. Most frequent song is a dry rattle, not hugely dissimilar to the rattle of the Yellowhammer.
All photos from Alamy