Marsh Warbler in November

to compare…

The Linosa acro remains a fascinating bird and one which it seems doesn’t quite resolve, either for those of us who saw it and at least some who have subsequently seen the photos. There are new comments well worth looking through…

Meanwhile, in response, Paul Baxter sent an excellent set of images of what does appear to be a first winter Marsh Warbler from north-east Scotland at the same time of year. A remarkably late record, and v. helpful comparison with the Linosa bird. The images and video below providing lots of learning.

“Just thought, whilst its topical, to share with you some images (and video) of an acro from Aberdeenshire last autumn – a Marsh Warbler in November (unheard of!). I reckon about 3 weeks later than any other Scottish record. When I first clapped eyes on it, I thought this was going to be a BRW, date, behaviour et al. But…. when I started to look at the bird, it didn’t add up. Thank heavens for digital photography 🙂 Just shows that we have to wide open to all possibilities all of the time.  The bird turns out to be one of our rarest of the year. 

This bird showed a long primary projection.  At least 8, possibly 9, exposed primary tips were visible beyond the tertials.  These primary tips appeared to show very faint white crescents but this could have been an effect of the light.  The tips were evenly spaced.  Several of the images show the emargination to primary 3, but not primary 4.  The emargination on P3 is roughly in line with P7. Also, the tip of P2 falls level with P4. Wing point = P3.

You will see how phyllosc like it was on the video – hovering under sycamore leaves taking aphids like crests. I guess they adapt to whatever food source there is, particularly in late autumn. Always learning!


all images: Marsh Warbler, Old Church Kineff, Aberdeenshire, 5th November 2011 (Paul Baxter)




Video of the bird:





all images: Marsh Warbler, Old Church Kineff, Aberdeenshire, 5th November 2011 (Paul Baxter)

About Martin Garner

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3 Responses to Marsh Warbler in November

  1. Martin Cade says:

    I’m maybe barking up the wrong tree but is this really a Marsh Warbler? The claws can be seen very well on some of the photos and they look remarkably long – and rather dark? – for a Marsh; there doesn’t seem to any suggestion of the ‘dome-headed’ look that you’d like to see on a Marsh; isn’t the bill a bit slender for a Marsh? on the video clip at least the upperparts look to have quite a warm tone to them; the emargination on P3 doesn’t really look to fall that far beyond the longest tertial; are the apparent pale tips to the primaries on some of the photos anything other than a trick of the light? I’m struggling to see why it couldn’t be a Reed Warbler.

  2. Finnish Birder says:

    These 1w birds are really often very problematic and difficult to identify even on hand. I think this Acro really is the 1w Marsh Warbler:
    – short bill,
    – lack of warm (rufous) tones in upperparts
    (colder brown, perhaps some hint of greenish tones, which can disappear in poor light conditions),
    – a short emargination on P3
    – paler underpart than 1w Reed, almost dirty whitish, no clear sign of yellowish tones
    (which can disappear in poor light conditions as in some palest Yellowhammers)
    It’s true that this 1w Marsh has almost absent white primary tips, and this could be true often in most 1cy birds. Also it’s visible that the tip of longest tertial does not reach over the tip of secondaries, which I have seen in fresh adults. This perhaps is a general tendency in these youngs.
    Apparently 2cy spring birds (after the late first moult in May) may have very clear white primary tips and also the tip of longest tertial reaches mostly over the tip of secondaries. On the other hand the earlier moulted 3cy birds in spring may have some wear in their wing feathers and thus the white tips are not so clear in late spring as in 2cy birds. Also the longest tertial being longer than secondaries is not so obvious feature in these worn birds. But this is under study.
    Sometimes Marsh Warbler has some contrast between wing and tail feathers (as in this case probably), which seems to be lacking in Reed Warbler and Blyth’s Reed Warbler. However the colour of legs/claws in some individuals could be rather similar both 1w Marsh Warbler (darkest legs/claws) and 1w Reed Warbler(palest legs/claws).
    The claws certainly look rather long, but the difference between species is only appr. 1,0 mm.

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