Posts Tagged ‘Yellow Browed Warbler


Six Stripe Sprite

There’s something quite special about living on the east coast, a stone’s throw from the sea. Migrating birds apart, living in West Runton is very nice indeed; but especially so when the autumn wind is in the east and I can walk out of my front door and within 400m be watching three Yellow Browed Warblers, a handful of Redstarts and a Little Bunting. So it was last week. Well, I say ‘watching’ a Little Bunting. When asked ‘were we watching the Little Bunting?’ friend Bob replied … “It’s that little we can’t bloody see it” It was probably the most elusive individual of the species I’ve seen. It sat tighter than an Extinction Rebellion activist, hardly shifting from it’s field of Sugar Beet. When it did move it exploded from one patch of mugwort to another low and fast; as if it were on a zip wire. It did show for me eventually … but not well.

It was however the Yellow Broweds that made my day. I absolutely love seeing these little Siberian migrants. I’m not sure if it’s their bright plumage or the way they jauntily flit about picking-off every small insect they find. Maybe, it’s the fact they have travelled all the way from Northern Russia and crossed the North Sea that I find so incredible. Anyways, I really do think they are enigmatic and worth seeking out in the few weeks each year they pass along our coast. Terrific birds.




Shouty Siberian

Wherever you go amid the Isles of Scilly in October it’s likely you will hear the ‘tsoeest’ of Yellow-browed Warblers. We found this one skulking in bushes at Trenoweth … but we had others.


Northerly Winds

I organised a migration day out on Saturday. As it filled up straight away I thought I’d organise another for the following day. Saturday and Sunday became a migration weekend. With strong Northerly winds we were expecting something special and we weren’t disappointed. The Saturday seawatch gave us wildfowl galore as Teal, Eider, Brent, Pinkfeet and Shelduck streamed passed us punctuated with regular Gannets. Manx and Sooty Shearwaters put in an appearance as did the odd Arctic Skua and Red throated Diver. We even managed a Scaup giving excellent views with a side act of bobbing Jack Snipe. However it was the calm after the storm on the Sunday when passerines started to crop up. Goldcrests, Chiffchaffs, Yellow browed Warblers and a Barred Warbler. A beautiful male Hen Harrier delighted us with a flypast but not after it had been harried by a persistent Merlin, all against a background of leaving birds such as Spoonbill.

Next year I think a migration weekend is on the cards!


Over the brow

Yellow browed Warblers, the seven striped sprites, have to be my favourite; tiny loved jewels from the north. Occupants of the Taiga forests these birds move in a fleeting migration through the UK and winter in north Africa and southern Europe in small numbers.

On a birding tour at the end of last month we found not one but two together at Stiffkey. Try as I might to get the right angle to photograph both together I couldn’t do it. Still … just adore these tiny, tiny long distant migrants. In the last few years one was even found in Australia. How’s that for a migration?



I was just tidying up one or two photographs the other day and came across this one I took on Scillies.

We were walking back to the quay on St Agnes having been entertained by a Red Flanked Bluetail in bulb fields nearby. The pittosporum hedgerow we walked beside was spilling over the path above head height and forming an enclave free from the wind. Where the hedgerow gave way to a few deciduous trees the sun sprayed shafts of light through the leaves to the ground where they danced around us. It was the sort of scene more typical of a late autumn woodland than of a footpath between fields. As I looked up something caught my eye. Against the backlit translucent pale green was the distinctive shape of a warbler. It was hanging and hovering as it picked insects delicately from the dappled foliage. A closer look revealed it was yet another Yellow browed Warbler.

Yellow browed Warbler St Agnes Isles of Scilly_Z5A0965


Hide and seek

Everything was so shy the other week. A silent Yellow browed Warbler at Walsey Hills flitted discretely in the ivy and nearby at Kelling a Barred Warbler with a severe case of agoraphobia moved imperceptibly from branch to branch in the middle of a hawthorn.

2015 09 25 Yellow browed Warbler Walsey Hills NOA Cley Norfolk_Z5A8793 

2015 09 25 Barred Warbler Kelling Norfolk_Z5A8832




Given the invasive numbers of Yellow browed Warblers that were turning up further north and given I’d already found three here on the hill last week not but 800m from Falcon Cottage; I wasn’t in the least bit surprised when one started calling from the garden on Saturday. It or probably another brighter individual is still here today.

I wasn’t even surprised when yesterday a Lapland Bunting flew over the house; and I certainly expected the sixty or so Blackbirds, Redpolls, Siskins and Swallows that were using the garden as a staging post on their way south. What I wasn’t expecting however was what I flushed from a bush across the field.

When dawn broke I went for my usual walk locally. The mist was transient and at times quite thick as it overpowered the sun which was desperately trying to burn it off. I checked the far corner of the field and had given up on finding anything of true note when I noticed around 50 Blue Tits on the wires above the large hawthorn. They weren’t happy. I expected to raise my bins and see one of the two local Kestrels tolerating some incessant mobbing. Instead a Grey Shrike bolted from its perch over my head and landed way distant. Detail lost in the mist. From what I saw I’m pretty sure it was a Great Grey Shrike and not something rarer. Surprising yes! Given I’d not heard of any others this autumn throughout the whole of the country; although one at Horsey around the coast made landfall later the same day.

Yellow browed Warbler



Everywhere but nowhere

I must type up that report.

My morning walk around the hill found just a single Yellow browed Warbler. Throughout Norfolk rare birds were being found all over … the best of which was a Red flanked Bluetail. I cracked. The report would have to wait.

On arrival at the Bluetail I saw it for 20 seconds and it promptly disappeared for an hour. Behaving very un-Bluetail like, taking jaunts in among the canopy rather than seeking low level perches, it proved extremely elusive. Even the nearby Long eared Owl played peek-a-boo from the hedgerow and a Great Grey Shrike with its mobbing entourage was always distant never near.

The following day I tried again but the Bluetail had moved on, as expectedly had the Long eared Owl. At nearby Wells the previous days Radde’s Warbler showed once and then took to ground. The only sighting of the accompanying Olive backed Pipit I got was as it vaporised over my shoulder at the speed of light.

It was only as I viewed my fourth Yellow browed Warbler of the day did a bird show on the right side of all the intervening vegetation.

Time to type up that report.

Red flanked Bluetail_Z5A8110

Great Grey Shrike_Z5A8355

Long eared Owl_Z5A8181

Yellow browed Warbler_Z5A8462a




Yellow browed Warblers

After a patient wait the other week a shouty Yellow browed Warbler came into the near side of the apple tree at Burnham Overy. A rather quieter bird at Salthouse was equally elusive but in surprisingly little cover. It seemed to frequently employ a cloak of invisibility.


2014 09 17 Yellow browed Warbler Burnham Overy Norfolk_Z5A4001

2014 09 19 Yellow browed Warbler Salthouse Norfolk_Z5A4524a

Notice the long supercillium and the prominent median crown stripe on the lower Salthouse bird. Not completely out of kilter with what you would expect for a yellow browed …but still something that made me look twice!

It’s shaping up into a very good Autumn!



Defensive Chiffchaffs and Robins


The Hill gave up very little on Sunday morning. A Whinchat and a trio of Wheatear were the best it could offer and we’d probably been acquainted with those birds previously.

Even an early morning call from Paul regarding Dolphins heading my way unfortunately came to nothing. It wasn’t until late afternoon that things came to life with the easterlies gaining momentum

A visit to the valley bottom gave the first surprise. On exiting the car I heard it shout. The eruptive call of a Yellow browed is unmistakable. Although elusive the distinctive olive green upperparts, silky white unders and wingbars gained a piecemeal confirmation. A defensive Chiffchaff making claim against invasion soon saw off the northern sprite. Despite an hour of patient listening I didn’t hear him shout again. Perhaps he’ll call more when he’s rested.

I went to the cliff top to re-photograph the coneheads and Bush crickets – this time taking a bat detector!

We had often talked about the wood on the cliff and how nothing was ever found there. As I walked through the trees I was surprised therefore (for the second time in the day) to see a bird perched. It was nothing more than a silhouette but before I raised my bins I knew what it was. The drooped winds and cocked tail all screamed Red breasted Flycatcher. The white I saw at the base of the tail made me smile. I reached for the camera and the bird dropped from sight … replaced by a Robin; two birds in the wood! I didn’t see it again despite Rose, Paul and Greg quickly on site. Elating but frustrating. Damn Chiffs and Robins.



The damn Chiffy – one of the offending defenders.

I could hear the rain in the night drumming on the skylights. Surely both birds would stop and I’d get more prolonged views next morning. I resolved to get up early.

As I exited the door this morning there was a detonation of red from the laurel hedge that could have been nothing other than a Redstart. It was. This bode well. I watched it quiver a while and then made my way to the clifftop. I had not gone far before the heavy moist air was punctuated by a shape in the mist. I expected a large gull. I raised my bins and squinted. The form of an Osprey materialised; making it’s way laboriously east. I heard later it was seen mid morning further south at Horsey. The phone went and I was called away by the promise of a Paddyfield Warbler. Sadly despite much looking and listening it came to nothing. It had moved on.

I looked later for the Yellow browed and the RB Fly, but saw nothing. The wood and everywhere else was emptied of everything but a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.

Ah well! … it was good while it lasted.





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July 2020


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