Arctic Warbler

First Guided Day at Flamborough

by Martin

Not a bad start! Being part of the team of  recently launched Yorkshire Coast Nature. Rich Baines and I are trialing some new guided events. This was first one. A Seabird Day/ Masterclass at Flamborough. What would happen?


Incredibly it was this Arctic Warbler (top photo by MG). Not too tricky in nice close -up photo, but not see easy in ‘real life’ with a bird that won’t show!  Greenish Warbler (from a week ago) to compare below it, by Jochen D. (see here).

before we get into that.

Lesser Yellowlegs

I arrived just before 8 am in Flamborough Village to see a mass of hirundines and 6 Swifts overhead, which I paused to check out. Then continuing towards the light house met Rich, who had found a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs (around 7 am) at South Landing. Nice start!

We then met our client and began a 3 hour seawatch bagging several Sooty and Manx Shearwaters, several Arctic and Great Skua, and 2 juvenile Long-tailed Skuas, whose structure, flight style and plumage, together said ‘distinctive’. 2 close juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were added value, as well as with a summer plumage Red-throated Diver and plenty of the commoner Terns, Kittiwakes, Gannets and Auks.

Taking a break for lunch and exploring sound recording, we then headed for a loop walk around the head to look for passerines.

The only other birder we encountered was Andy Malley. He had seen a head pop out of the dense cover in Old Fall Plantation which seemed too strongly patterned for Willow Warbler. Views incredibly brief and hard to come to any clear conclusion. He had waited another hour with no further sign. The only thing to do was help out. After a further 25 minutes and no sign we decided to try playing ‘Greenish Warbler call’. I hunkered down close to habitat with recording. Shortly 3 others were thumbs-up-“it came in towards you”. Views brief but definitely wing-barred phyllsocs, and at this stage- presumably a Greenish. Now I want to see it too!

Another 10 minutes pass and it reappears- briefly but right out. Crikey- Arctic type wing bar and tapering supercilium in front to the eye- it looks like an Arctic! But views brief- too brief and Arctic is a big call (when lot of Greenish have been around too). I opt for taking photos next time. Don’t have to wait long, reappearing again in sun for few seconds and back in. Now we have photos. But they are a little confusing. Obvious yellow in fore-supercilium and seemingly over cheeks and even some on breast. Not in my ‘search image’ of Arctic. Bill doesn’t look huge and in one photo primary projections seem not long enough. However legs undeniably bright orange and not the ‘plumbous’ of typical Greenish.

Most features point to Arctic but why is it yellowy-looking at the front? Frustratingly it isn’t calling and views are sooo brief. We explore all the wing barred phylloscs and quick phone to Brian Small helps allay fears and keep us in the Arctic zone. Finally it gets ‘showy’ out in nicer shade- not burnt out by sun- and looks all of an Arctic Warbler. Fantastic!

Here, an attempt at the unfolding story- by photo

Greenish Warbler on Helgoland by Jochen. Not much info when you get very brief head shots only,

Arctic Warbler, Old Fall Plantation, 1 Sept 2012, by MG.  Brief views of strong supercilium on little leaf warbler put Andy Malley on ‘something good. Glad he stuck with it.

Arctic Warbler, Old Fall Plantation, 1 Sept 2012, by MG.  Actually it can be identified by the emarginations in the primaries- more on Greenish, less on Arctic.

Just 4 of us (me behind camera)- wrestling with Andy’s ‘good but unobliging’ phyllosc.

Arctic Warbler, Old Fall Plantation, 1 Sept 2012, by MG.  Finally it starts to show properly. Overcast/shade is much better than bright sun!

Friends and twitchers start arriving and bird is performing. After glow has set in. Thumbs up from team effort at the front.



About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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One Response to Arctic Warbler

  1. Jan Nobel says:

    I was the lucky ‘client’ mentioned above. Had a brilliant day with Martin and Rich, saw 2 lifers in a day, and actually learned a few things. Highly recommended!

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