Tuesday 7 May 2013

Gardens and Groppers

I had a a very early airport run to do on Monday morning. Polina's Mum needed to be at Luton airport for 6am so we left Norwich at 4am. On our return at 9am, Polina crashed out so I took my chance and headed out for some birding. With excellent directions once again from James Emerson, I headed to Whitlingham CP to look for Garden Warbler.
Garden Warblers are scarce breeders in Ireland, more or less confined to suitable areas around the counties of Monaghan and Fermanagh. Other than that they are scarce migrants on headlands in the spring and more so in the autumn. Apart from a bird in July at Lough Crom, Co. Fermanagh in 2004, I've only ever seen them on headlands and the only time I'd heard one sing was in Latvia in 2011, that time I had to wait to see the bird so I could rule out Barred Warbler, a nice problem to have!
So before reaching the location I had to refresh myself on Garden Warbler song. There were plenty of Blackcaps singing around the broad so I wondered if I could possibly make the mistake of confusing them. However, once I reached the location, I was able to pick out the song straight away. Not quite as melodic as Blackcap, more consistent and steady with less 'flutey' bits really!
Views through the bins were reasonable but getting a photo was a whole other kettle of fish. The bird either moved around a lot or simply sat in cover and sang. So no photo. For such a nondescript, anonymous looking creature I find them really appealing. Their beauty is in their subltey. Their rather plump composure, nice little grey semi-collar, stout bill, beady dark eye and incomplete white eye-ring. You'll forgive me if I dig out an old shot from 2011 of a migrant Garden Warbler on Knockadoon Head, Co. Cork.

Garden Warbler, Cork, Ireland - November 2011
Sylvia Boring they are not!

In all I had at least two birds at Whitlingham yesterday. 

This evening I had directions for Grasshopper Warbler at UEA campus. I left it suitably late enough so the bird would start singing when I got there. I reached the spot, passing a Garden Warbler in song en route (buried in deep cover of course). While I waited for my quarry to start reeling, two Cuckoos chased each other around the reedbeds, I managed one distant record shot of one bird sitting quietly in a willow tree.

Cuckoo - UEA campus, Norwich - 7th May 2013
I think I had a third bird also on the opposite side of the river.
Right on cue at 8.15pm, the Gropper started reeling. A minute or two later it stopped and remained silent for the next forty five minutes. It had just started again at 9pm but by then it time to head home. And of course, photoless :-(

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