Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Icky Melody

I’ve dipped a couple of Icterine Warblers in my time, and so when the chance came for a settled one in Broom Wood, off Tiln Lane, Nottinghamshire (an hour from my house), it seemed rude not try for it…

I arrived (for my first visit…) on Friday evening (21st June), being told by birders leaving the site that it was singing and showing occasionally. I spent two hours on site as the bird made the odd rattle and squeak from deep cover, but didn’t show (for me) at all. The nearest I came to seeing it was it moving in some sallow late on in poor light.

Identifying warblers by their song or calls alone has always been a test for me. It’s not that I don’t know their calls (although that’s true of the rarer ones, of course), it’s that I often can’t actually hear them. My hearing is rubbish. But I could hear something from this bird, and it didn’t sound like the full song.

Other –better – birders, with better hearing, were muttering that they hadn’t heard it sing properly; but at that time no one was suggesting a mis-identification… So I sloped off home, putting this down as another Icky dip.

I awoke of Saturday morning to find that other (better) birders had been questioning the ID, and it was now being called as a Melodious Warbler. I had no chance to going at all on Saturday, and could only get there on Sunday if I missed helping with the dawn WeBS count at Rodley NR.

Well, I ducked out of the WeBS, and headed back to Notts, arriving before 7am. What a difference 36 hours makes. The bird showed almost immediately, singing its heart out – and continued to do so, on and off, for the next 90 minutes.

The shortish primary projection of Melodious was plain to see, as were the browny-green upperparts, but an obvious pale panel in the wing still suggested Icterine. Overall, the bird didn’t seem as big as I though Ickies were meant to be – a notion backed up by other birders I spoke to.  The head didn’t seem as angular or the bill as big as I’d expect on an Icky, and (from photos of the bird) the legs are clearly brown. The underparts were a lovely Mediterranean yellow…

It even showed well enough for me to take some phone-scoped shots with my new iPhone 5:

Melodious Warbler, Tiln Lane, Retford, Nottinghamshire - Sunday 23rd June 2013

The best thing (for me) was that he was pumping out his song loud and clear. There’s a lot going on in that song: all sorts of warbles, zizzes, rattles and scratches. The higher, thinner notes of Icterine did seem to be lacking. All in all, a really great learning experience.

It must be said that the birders who had first seen the bird and called it an Icky hadn’t had brilliant views, maybe hadn’t heard the song so well – and to top it off, I’d heard the bird had responded to tapes of an Icky! Respect is due for simply finding such a skulking and misleading bird in such dense habitat.

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