August 17th   Leave a comment

It might have seemed a miserable day in Crail today, but the conditions were good. Low cloud and rain, with continuing easterlies is the best combination for migrants to turn up. I drew a blank this morning at Craighead, the Patch and Kilminning, apart from a common snipe flying over calling in the mist, and then bizarrely I saw it, or another a bit later being followed persistently by a common swift as it circled round high above the newly harvested oat field. I really have no idea and I doubt the snipe did either. The afternoon was much better than the morning. I had retreated reluctantly back home to work when I got a phone call from the Patch that a greenish warbler had just been caught. The bird I have been looking for all week. I was out of the door even while still on the phone and made down to the Patch from my house in six minutes. The warbler was still being processed and I was lucky to see it close up. They are subtle birds on first glance – variations on the Phylloscopus warbler theme, greens and dirty whites – but distinctive on second. The eyestripe is stronger than a willow warbler and edged with a dark eyeline and along the top edge subtly making it really stand out. It is supposed to meet above the bill, but barely did so on this bird – I wouldn’t have been able to see this in the field. The general tone above was more moss green than a willow warbler, and purer white underneath. The overall impression is of a much crisper, contrasting warbler than usual. The pale tips to the wing coverts forming a wing bar were subtle. It really is only an impression with just a couple of feathers on one side making a fair stab at a wing bar: but enough to be visible in the field. A pink bill and dark legs are also good characters. The really obvious character though is the call and as the bird was released it gave a loud “chis-wick”. The greenish warbler then disappeared into the patch. I glimpsed it briefly again in a mixed tit flock but it would have been an uncertain id if I had not just seen it. It absolutely refused to call again while I was in the Patch – if only these rare warblers called more regularly – we would all be finding them a lot more often. I was back at my home working desk within 45 minutes. I’d rather have found a greenish warbler myself at Kilminning this week but after hours of unsuccessful looking I am glad of any opportunity to see one – only my 5th greenish warbler in Crail in the last 18 years. Thanks to my neighbours Chris Broome for resuming ringing at the Patch this autumn, and Ken Shaw for letting me know about it so promptly.

Greenish warbler caught this afternoon, by the ringing hut at Fife Ness. Thanks to ringing like this we know where these birds come from (northern Russia or southern Finland) and where they winter (India!). So this one has a way to go to get back on track.

Posted August 17, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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