Thursday, 28 June 2012

Savi's twitch

It was too much to bear. All the stuff I'd missed earlier in the year, the 10th Irish record of Savi's Warbler, a singing male at Tacumshin..........I had to go and twitch this one!! Late on Tuesday I decided to go, the original plan was to drive to Wexford on Wednesday evening and get the bird towards dusk but I figured that if I hit the hay early I could get up and drive to Tacumshin Wednesday morning and so that's what I did.
The alarm went at 2.20am..........didn't seem like a good idea then. A hot shower and some coffee woke me up and by 3am I was on the road. The fog between Youghal and Dungarvan had visibility down to about 2 meters so this slowed me up. 4am and I reached the turn-off for Bunmahon where I picked up Daniel Weldon (he of the Bunmahon Purple Heron fame!!). Just after 5am we reached the site. Clearly a massive Irish twitch was underway as we were joined by........absolutely no-one............not one other person! I know not everyone needs Savi's and those that do had probably been there already but it was a little odd that we were the only people there. As we drove down the narrow track we wondered if we were in the right place, I stopped the car and opened the door and could immediately hear a Locustella reeling away........this must be it so. We parked the car and all the landmarks as Harry had described were there, the abandoned cottage, the set of rocks and the white sign. With the bird still singing we set the scopes up and started to look for it. This is where I was very glad I had Daniel with me. After 10 minutes of scoping a set of willows he goes...."Hold on.....(long pause).......I have it". (Great to have the eye-sight of a 15 year old). And there it was on the outer edge of a set of willows giving its reeling song. The pity was that the fog was so heavy and the bird so distant that photos were impossible. I tried a few on the 'live-view' function but they were so grainy and blurry that I didn't bother to process them. To give you an idea of the poor light and distance here's a shot taken at 700mm and ISO1600. I took it straight from the raw file and didn't adjust the exposure or white balance so that's what it looked like first thing. The bird was singing from the bottom right hand side just above the line of reeds.

Savi's Warbler in there - honestly!!
But on the scope at least it was possible to make out the features of the bird. Quite Reed Warbler-like. Unstreaked with rufous brown upper-parts and buff on the chest with an off-white throat that swelled out as he sang. The tail looked broad and the long under-tail coverts gave it that distinctive Locustella shape. You could also make out the short supercilium. Compared to Grasshopper Warbler the song is described as being of a higher frequency and lower pitch. My own recording isn't great but recordings on xeno-canto will give you an idea of the difference between G'ropper and Savi's (and River Warbler also).

Singing Grasshopper Warbler

Singing Savi's Warbler

Singing River Warbler

We stayed with the bird until about 8am hoping in vain that the fog would lift but it didn't. It was at least nice to also hear so many Reed Warblers in song there, could have been up to 4 birds singing in that same area. We headed over towards the East End of Tac where there was one Little Gull. The fog and drizzle was now so bad that we only checked Forgotten Corner, Lingstown and White Hole briefly. Apart from a single Kestrel we had no other BoPs, no Hobbys or Harriers of any kind. We returned to the Savi's at about 9.30am and while the fog had lifted a bit the bird had stopped singing. With that it was time to turn around and head home.
So while the views didn't offer any photos ops I was still very happy with the scope views I had and of course to have a good listen to its song. The last record was 1996, hopefully we won't need to wait 16 years for the next one.

I arrived back home just before lunch and went to bed to try and catch up on some sleep........twitching eh!!

Footnote: Who was Savi?? Italian Ornithologist evidently. Thankyou Wikipedia.

Paolo Savi

1 comment:

  1. Glad you both saw the bird anyway, Graham. Alec went on Thursday evening and heard it only.
    For the record, there were only five people, and not all at once, there on the Tuesday morning. I presume a lot will have gone this morning due to it being the weekend, including some who had seen the species previously in Ireland.