Who would have thought? This was the real surprise top posting of 2012. An article with no photos, about a common bird species already renowned for its varied vocal repertoire. And yet… Jochen noticed something.
His observation galvanised folk from all over Europe to report similar experiences. 16 responses as part of the original posting can be found here. This post is still visited every day, up to 100 times a day.
All part of the fun and the amazing capacity for us to keep on learning and discovering from the birds and wildlife all around us.
If you missed it and only casually glanced- well have another read and from all of us:
Happy New Year!
Strange Great Tit calls- invasion from the east?
Although some pairs of Great Tits breed annually on Helgoland, the majority of birds occurs during migration. Every few years, numbers are much larger than in other years, usually corresponding with large numbers in southern Sweden. However, most ringing recoveries are from the southern Baltic Sea coast. Most Tits (Great & Blue) arrive on Helgoland during easterly winds, often, when there is fog at the coast.
Since mid of October, large number of Great Tits are present on Helgoland, as often in invasion years. However, this autumn they are calling different. Most birds have a call, which is similar to a much discussed Chiffchaff-call, it sounds even a bit similar to Hume’s Warbler. It’s a “wieh-wieh” call, sometimes a single , usually a double and sometimes a triple-call, often included in a series of other calls. When you hear it the first time, you don’t think it’s a Great Tit, but more a strange Phylloscopus warbler! Now I am used to the call and adrenalin-level keeps low, but I never heard this call before, and now the majority of Great Tits utter this call!
Listen here to the calls (recorded by Matthias Feuersenger and Ralph Martin on Helgoland in October 2012).
You can see some sonagrams and listen to some more samples here (although the text is mainly in German):
When I discussed the calls with other birders, none of them claimed to have heard the call ever before, although it seems likely that a single bird would have been noticed as one of many variations of Great Tit calls. Now they seem to be all over Germany, from the south to the north.
Are we experiencing an influx of breeding areas which have not been source of invasions before, like the Bullfinches in 2004? This autumn there are many recoveries from the Baltic states, but there they are ringed on migration, so the origin of these birds must be further east or northeast. Searching on xeno-canto.com, Matthias Feuersenger found 2 calls from Russia which sounded similar. They were recorded at Cheboksary, Chuvashskaya Respublika, Russia (56,0° N, 47,3°E, 700 km east of Moskau).
So is this the origin of the birds? Are they all over Europe now or just in the central part? Will they appear now annually in Europe?
Even in common and well known species like Great Tits there are mysteries which are not yet solved!
Thanks Matthias & Ralph for allowing me to use your recordings and for discussions!