Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Hume's Leaf Warbler - South Gare, Cleveland, Saturday 12th November

Teesmouth from South Gare, Cleveland - 12th November 2011

I’d been itching to try out my new binoculars all week last week. They’d arrived on Monday 7th and I’d not been able to look at anything more than the birds on my garden feeders in the early morning gloom before going top work.

Next weekend – Sunday 20th – is the monthly WeBS count day, so I knew I’d be getting some good patch birding in then. But this weekend I had the second half of Saturday to go birding and break them in. So what better than to use my new bins on an east coast Phylloscopus leaf warbler on autumn passage? Phylloscopus humei to be precise: Hume’s Leaf Warbler. That’s exactly what these Minox 8.5x42 HG APO binoculars were made for!

A Hume’s had been reported on Friday 11th in a gully at the end of South Gare, Cleveland. It was still around on Saturday morning, and I arrived early afternoon. I was lucky – I didn’t have to wait more then five minutes for it to fly up from a bush right in front of me.

The bird showed really well for the 90 minutes I watched. It gave a birder like me - with no previous experience of this species - an easy lesson in identification. It looked like slightly chubbier than a Yellow-browed Warbler, less sleek and perhaps smaller. The bill looked smaller, but this could have been due to the plump-looking body. The supercillium looked paler, perhaps ending sooner behind the eye with a slight upwards point. The upper parts were certainly greyer than on a Yellow-brow, and there was only one clear white wing-bar, rather than two. The under parts were a shade darker, though the bird looked quite bright when in the harsh bright sunlight.

It moved spritely through the bushes in the little ravine, with the birder having a great view from above as it popped up into the late afternoon sunlight. I spent half my time fielding questions about the bird from passers-by and dog-walkers – maybe I looked the most approachable...

There were no other birds in the ravine, but there were some great birds nearby – all of which I missed. A Black Redstart had apparently been frightened off by birders/photographers/dogs (take your pick) before I arrived, and I couldn’t refind it. A look across the water didn’t turn up the reported Black Guillemot, and the Long-eared Owl that had apparently dropped in by the road back inland kept hidden from me and the others looking for it.

It was a great little bird to see – and the new bins performed beautifully (going to have to get better at focussing them quickly though). Nice little trip – regardless of missing all the supporting cast.

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