Sunday, 30 November 2014

Well, its definitely a Chiffchaff

Here we go again.  What appears to be the same 'Siberian' Chiffchaff has shown up at Marston Sewage Works today.  I wasn't quite expecting to bump in to one but like last year, this bird appeared just as I tried playing the the call of tristis.  However it really didn't seem very interested in the recording - perhaps coincidence?

So, it looks like the same interesting individual as last year and also sounds like the same too.  Below is a snippet of calls I managed to get with my Remembird.  It sure does sound the same.  That is to say, not right for tristis, but very much more collybita in tone - listen to the clip and have a look at the sonogram below.  I really think this bird needs ringing and a feather being sent off.  Maybe it's one of those mythical abietinus...

Here are links to previous posts about this bird:

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Beds is ON FIRE!

Wow!  What a couple of weeks Beds is currently having.  Barred Warbler, a very confiding Hoopoe, a Lap Bunt and now a Lesser Grey Shrike!  It really makes up for a thoroughly dull rest of the year (Glossy Ibis aside).

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Barred in Beds!

Well, that's turned around a truly dismal birding year in Beds.  John Lynch did a sterling job a keeping on this Barred Warbler at Blows Downs today - Bedfordshires first.  Many thanks John!  But the big question is "what did you have vismiging?"

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Beasts from the east

Feels like ages since I've done any 'proper' birding.  So I headed up to Norfolk on Sunday with Wardy to look at waifs and stays.

First up was this rather splendid OBP in Wells Wood.

[Canon 7D, 300mm IS f.4 and 1.4 converter]

Then some Barred Warbler action at Salthouse

Barred Warbler shots all taken digiscoping with a Nikon V1, 10-30mm lens, Swarovski ATS 80 HD and 25-50x eyepiece.

Friday, 23 May 2014

I love a good owl

Lovely views of this Barn Owl this evening near Cardington.  I was hoping for some flight shots but these will do.

Monday, 5 May 2014


4 birders, 4th May 2014, Bedfordshire, 110 species.  Ordinary.  Birdrace: The Movie.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

95% tristis

Thanks to Neil Wright, I finally got to hear the remaining Siberian Chiffchaff sing yesterday morning. And it sounds more or less like it should for a tristis. Take a listen:

But there is no doubt this wasn't a 'classic' bird, at least in my eyes. When it first arrived it looked good (see above) but you would have walked straight past it if you were only 'listening' for Siberian Chiffchaffs. Take a listen here:

The calls represented here were typical of what it was giving constantly.  Interstingly since first picking it up in early December I have hardly heard it call in all the visits I have made over to look at it.  However it called several times yesterday and I managed to get two snatches on my Remembird:

None of these calls are the true tristis 'peep'.  They are virtually all a clear rising 'wheep' just like collybita. The two calls recorded yesterday are actually much closer to a true tristis call but still aren't really flat, as you can see in the sonogram above.  So where does that leave us?

Well, it looks like a tristis, and it sings like a tristis, but doesn't really call like a tristis.  Is it a tristis?  I think so.  This bird is a prime candidate for having some DNA work done so we'd know once and for all, that tristis can call just like collybita.

Sunday, 23 February 2014


I eventually managed a trip up to Norfolk to see the Parrot Crossbills at Holt CP yesterday.  After seeing them very briefly first thing in the morning we eventually got brilliant views around lunchtime.  Not excellent photos but I was too busy actually looking at them.  Choop choop!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

And another weird chiffy

Another interesting Chiffchaff.  This one was at Broom GP.  I initially saw two birds in the willows - one dingy grey collybita type which was calling constantly, and then this bird.  I hadn't noticed it until I tried playing tristis song at the collybita bird (just to see if it would react more than anything else), and this bird popped out from the bottom of some willows and started flapping its wings and bouncing around the branches above me.  Unfortunately this bird remained silent throughout.

Plumage wise this is an odd bird.  From a distance it looks buffy and brown, with the only real green around the wings and tail.  Up close the green is much more evident, especially around the mantle, flanks and in the supercillium.  The two chiffchaffs in this clump also act differently - the collybita is often much higher up in the top third of the willows, but this bird is usually at the very bottom - usually in the bottom two feet, just above the water.

To say that chiffchaffs do my head in is an understatement!  As others have said, its redpolls all over again...

Saturday, 18 January 2014

3 Caspians and an Iceland

I went back to Milton a few days later with Mark Thomas.  The gulling was still brilliant - just the four Caspian Gulls this time, but also a juvenile Iceland gull too.  Nice.

I've added some music to this one, mainly to blot out all the swearing...

Friday, 10 January 2014

Out of county gulling

On Monday I had a cracking afternoons gulling in Cambs.  I started off at the tip at Milton and spent two happy hours pouring through the few thousand gulls coming and going.  Top of the pops were up to six Caspian Gulls, with a back up of around ten Yellow-legged Gulls.  I was disappointed not to bag myself a white-winger as up to two juv Glaucs had been seen the previous few days.  At around 3:15 I thought I should give the Grafham roost a go.  I was pushing it get there before it got too dark, but managed to pull up just after 4pm

I started scanning from the fishing lodge and within five minutes I had found a lovely looking adult Glauc not far off shore.  All other hopes of finding more Caspo's drifted in to the darkness as I happily watched my first adult Glauc of a good few years.

The videos above were digiscoped (at great distance!) with a Swarovski ATS 80 HD, 25-50x zoom, and Nikon V1 and kit lens.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Another Sibe Chiff

At the same time I found the 'other' Siberian Chiffchaff at Marston Sewage Works I also came across this bird.  It is distinctly different - its more beige and buff in colouration, without the greyness of the other bird.  The wings and tail, although tinged green, aren't nearly as bright as the other bird, and it also has a light wingbar.  This bird is also much more confiding and spends more time in low vegetation.  It has also been silent on every visit - or at least I haven't seen it call, or been close enough when it has.

On close inspection there is some yellow in its plumage - however this is only visible in the images above.  None of this yellow was visible in the field.

More shots of this bird by Neil Wright can be found on the BedsBirds blog here.

So, should both birds be labelled 'tristis'?  One bird looks good but hasn't called, and the other bird looks good (but more contrasting) and has a slightly strange call. Hmmmm.

Thursday, 2 January 2014


Wonderful little birds - Dartford Warblers.  Even better when you can see them just a few miles away from home.

That Chiffchaff again

I bumped in to that Sibe Chiff again today - it really is a looker.  Still doesn't sound quite right though...

There are more shots of this bird by Mike Lawrence on the BedsBirds blog here.

Iffy Chiffy

Looks ok for tristis, doesn't it.  Its a nice shade of grey-brown, with green restricted to the wings and tail.  That's all well and good, but now listen to it...

It's not the 'classic' tristis peep.  It sounds a lot more like a collybita.  I wonder, what do grey abietinus sound like?  Do they exist?  And if they do exist, would they look and sound like this?

There is currently an interesting discussion on the Surfbirds forum of a similar bird from Sweden.  The video shows a grey tristis type chiffchaff calling like a collybita.  The thread can be found here.

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