Monday, 24 October 2011

Blyth's Reed Flashback

There's been a probable Blyth's Reed Warbler today at Breakwater Country Park, Holyhead although views were short and the ID not completely clinched..

Sounds very similar to an experience I had in Porth Meudwy on 19th October 2005, and being such a rarity I thought I'd mention the tale! Firstly, I had brief, frustrating views over 45 minutes of a skulking Acrocephalus warbler clambering around in a dense ivy-covered hawthorn.

It was a rather featureless bird, and in some ways it felt similar to the process I go through sometimes when finding a skulking Garden Warbler - bit by bit you realise that you have obtained a full description of a relatively nondescript bird!

This was a (greyish) brown Reed sized acro with a v.short primary projection, the very slightest hint of some warmer colouration on a rump which was almost concolourous with mantle, no buff tones on underparts, pale throat, no obvious brow like Booted, short off white supercillium barely extending beyond the eye, no contrast or obvious pale tips to primaries in wing, bill longish with pale lower mandible and fairly broadish base... The legs were not seen and call not heard.

That evening I studied all I could online and in my many books and journals, focussing on Blyth's Reed' and confusion species, leaving me in little doubt what I had seen.

Unfortunately nobody I spoke to was able to make it down to look for the bird next day when I 'enjoyed' similar views over a two hour period, reinforcing my suspicions.

Attempted some digiscoping but ended up with lots of shots of the ivy as the bird dropped out of view ;-(

Any comments on identification would be welcome.

This bird is on my "ones that got away list"!

Saw the species at Spurn Bird Observatory in May 1985 (edit: '84) during a classic east coast fall (Bluethroats, Icterine Warbler and Red-backed Shrikes about). It had just been extracted from a mist net and the ringers were giving us a running commentary on the main id features of this legendary species. I remember the massive twitch that ensured - I think this was one of the first available mainland birds. Have vivid memories of hundreds of birders - including some guy in bright yellow waterproofs - chasing this along some hedge!

Anyone else got any memories of the ones that got away on the Lleyn?


  1. Remember that Spurn bird very well Andrew (and that guy in the yellow coat!) although I've got it down as May 28, 1984, in my records. I've got pics of the bird in the hand and looking at them again the very short primary projection really stands out and along with other features you mention yours looks a good candidate. Mind you reading the report of the bird's discovery on Spurn's website they struggled to id it even in the hand! Cheers Julian

  2. Hi Julian, of course it was 1984... old age is affecting my memory!

    I remember we had a Great Reed Warbler at some tiny wetland by the Humber on the way there as well - excellent birding.

    Looking forward to nailing the next Blyth's Reed I find - you've got to be optimistic eh?!

    All the best


  3. Hi Andy, is that an official description?
    Saw the Starling today, it was ace!
    I was gong to pop over and see you but I had to be back in Cemaes for noon or I would turn into a pumkin. TTFN Mr C

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hi Steve

    Is it good enough? Official description would need mist nets and/or photographs I think.. good candidate though going on all I've read about the species.

    Better start feeding the birds again soon, my garden list is stagnant!

    Be good to catch up sometime,

    Hope you and the tribe are well :-)

  6. Cheers Andy. Unless you had photos or biometrics, this long after the event it wouldn't get through.Family OK ta. Come over to birdgroup if you get chance and you can stop over if you want to catch up?
    All the best