First non singing record in Britain
Martin Garner and Gaynor Chapman
The Story Leader? This call >> Listen HERE <<
GC found this beautiful male Firecrest (above- fiery-orange in crown obscured) on the last hedge before the lighthouse on 21st April. MG a little gripped managed to get views on 2 occasions. On the 23rd the Firecrest appeared in front of MG plus a Chiffchaff. Only seen once very briefly it was nevertheless a bright looking bird- rather olivey -green and yellowy about the face. Disappeared quickly though shortly after a short series of call notes from back of big bramble patch. the bird/calls combo made MG think of Iberian Chiffchaff. Calling stooped, bird didn’t show again. MG mentioned to Richard Baines about crazy Iberian thoughts and let it go; crazy suggestion…
Fast forward to 25th April
Early morning email correspondence included with Andrew Kinghorn and Mark Newsome about the singing Iberian Chiffchaff which Andrew had recently found. MG included in a reply his sense of envy at Andrew’s find (aren’t some co-incidences really weird?). Anyway…
Sharon (Garner) was meeting Flamborough doyen Phil Cunningham for music rehearsal at 1pm on 25th, so MG dropped her off. News of a Rock Thrush found by laser eyes Hutt at Spurn galvanised fight back mentality. SE winds in early hours and claggy/misty/drizzle conditions screamed loud ‘rare bird weather’! Walk around outer head yielded few new phylloscs, c 20 Yellow Wagtails and a couple of Swifts. Returning (late again) to collect Sharon and passing the coastguard cottage gardens, MG heard strange call from bush centre. What is it? Pishing only caused caller to stop. Hmm dunno- something- perhaps odd local Greenfinch? Gotta go. Arrived in Phil’s house to find music practice is till ongoing when, just then, radio crackles. It’s GC. She had seen wrestling with a funny phyllosc since earlier in the morning. It has reappeared and is calling.
GC takes up the story:
The Importance of Being Instinctive
“There’s something odd about that Willow Warbler,” I thought. Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers move through our Flamborough garden, just yards from the sea, every spring and autumn. It wasn’t just that this bird, seen briefly early on the morning of 25th April, was strangely pale, or that it was madly flycatching, or that it seemed unusually confiding – I couldn’t put my finger on what it was exactly. But the bird quickly moved on to a neighbour’s garden and I had stuff to do, so I dismissed it as a pale, too-hungry-to-be-shy Willow Warbler and forgot about it. I shouldn’t have.
Glancing out at the front garden the same afternoon, I noticed the same bird, much closer this time in our Golden Willow tree. It flew out of sight, but at the same time an insistent call began. “If that’s the same bird calling, and I’m pretty sure it is,” I thought, “it’s neither a Willow Warbler nor a Chiffchaff!” A passing birder happened to be looking over the fence. It was Martin Garner. “Wonder if he’s listening to it as well?” He walked on a bit so I called him back – he’d heard the bird call but not realised a warbler was making it (the call was quite Siskin-like). The bird reappeared and we got a good look at it, noting the features – fairly pale legs, greenish above, whitish belly, lemon-yellow supercilium, throat, flanks and vent. And that call. “It’s an Iberian Chiffchaff!” Martin said.
Not just a first for our garden, but a first for Flamborough as well!
Gaynor Chapman, Yorkshire Coast Nature.
What was that call like? Have a listen: >HERE<
Sonagram (from recording above) of calling Iberian Chiffchaff, Flamborough, April 2013
Focusing in: Iberian Chiffchaff
Few more photos off the bird, which could morph colours in different lighting conditions. For a Chiffchaff, essentially half way to a Willow Warbler, with prominent yellowish supercilium, lack of obvious Chiffy eyering, lovely bright yellow wash to face and upper breast, olivey- quite greenish or more greyish at times- upperparts, longer-than -usual primary projection for Chiffchaff, odd bare parts, especially dull reddish-brown legs.
Further down the wing formula kinda detail (all photos MG apart form Andy Deighton’s supper ‘wing shot’).