Sunday, 4 May 2014

3rd May - Weekend Went

Woken by the local dawn chorus as a result of leaving a window open I headed out early for a look at the sea. The sea was still there which was a good thing as there wasn't much else to grab my attention. A patch year-tick Whimbrel flying north failed to respond to luring despite me whistling several times.

By 7:15 frankly I was desperate and thoughts of egg butties and a cup of tea in the garden were beginning to push into the edges of my thinking. It was shite, I hadn't even seen a Swallow, the distant song from the now established Common Whitethroat at the south end of the Ash Lagoon did little to spur me on. I decided to have a quick kick around the burnt gorse and then head off, maybe home, maybe somewhere different.

Walking along the path as Linnet after Linnet pinged away over the gorse I heard a funny short rattle, sort of Greenfinch or maybe Lesser Whitethroat-ish. My hearing's not the best so I started scanning the scrub, Whitethroat,  then a phyllosc flicked across the bush, then that trill again, re-scan and the rattle/trill is coming from the phyllosc. Then into the bush and I can hear it for a minute but can't see it. Then it starts working it's way up and it's wing-quivering when it gives the rattle.

Confused I started trying to work my brain through the options, half expecting the trill to turn into something more recognisable. Getting better front-end views it obviously wasn't a mis-singing Wood Warbler, as it was fairly plain-looking, white underneath but no lemon yellow on the breast or super. As I was stumbling about trying to get Xeno-Canto open ( the site was down all morning) up rocked Eric Barnes who thankfully had the songs of both Eastern and Western Bonelli's Warbler on his phone. A brief couple of minutes later and we had agreed that the bird was a perfect match for Western Bonelli's Warbler on song and plumage and started getting news out.

Over the next half hour the bird performed magnificently on a short circuit around the scrub, often active and feeding but also spending several periods in one place, preening and on one occasion stock still for over a minute peering intently underneath its perch. By 09-30-09:35 it had gone quiet and was never relocated after that as far as I know, perhaps seven others managed to get there in that time and see the bird.

After publishing the video and song recordings, online discussion and consultations with some very experienced individuals with this species pairing (Magnus Robb and Dick Groenendijk) a different identification conclusion was reached to the one we reached in the field. More to follow!


Dunnock said...

I'm interested to know what equipment was used for the sound recording.
Chris - Gosforth

Alan Tilmouth said...

Chris, the recording was made using an Iphone 5S, no additional equipment or mikes.

Alan Tilmouth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dunnock said...

Thanks. It's interesting because of the comments made about the pitch of the song. I don't know if anyone's examined the use of sonograms made with mobile phone technology. Used to be a member of Wildlife Sound Recording Society and there was always talk about merits of various microphones, wind shields, etc and use of parabola vs gun-mikes. But that was in the days of analogue, way before mobile phones let alone mobile phones with digital recording. I do use my phone when close enough; how close were you?

Alan Tilmouth said...

10m away at closest. Check out a file that was refined and re-worked in Adobe Audacity by Richard Dunn in my write-up in the BirdGuides webzine at

Dunnock said...

Well done, it's made an amazingly good record for the species and really does show what can be done with today's pocket technology. Great photos as well. Must get a portable battery charger for my phone!