Saturday, 20 April 2013

Subalpine Warbler

Well this blog seems to have been deep frozen like some of the awful weather we have had the last few months but after a warm Spring afternoon (and some encouragement from a few readers ) it is slowly defrosting. Friday's good local patch find is more inspiration to get the blog rolling again....

I'd started the morning with a wander around Mynydd Mawr, noting a few good birds - mostly diurnal migrants - passing through A steady passage of hirundines was apparent: 40+ Barn Swallow, 27 House Martin and 8 Sand Martin A constant trickle of Meadow Pipits, the odd alba wagtail, 5 Chaffinch, 25 Goldfinch, 4 Siskin and 11 Linnet all powered north The highest numbers of Northern Wheatear so far this year (36) were scattered around the heath, including several peachy Greenland race birds and there was a handful of Willow Warblers in odd places.

Systematic counting was put on hold around midday when I noticed a small bird that seemed to flash blue drop into a small bramble patch alongside the big square field by the lower car park. Having waited 5 minutes for it to reappear I walked up to the brambles (all of 2m square) and found a Dunnock popping out. Oh well, my mistake? Surely "it" was smaller than the offending accentor, and a spot of pishing was in order. At which point a superb Subalpine Warbler poked it's head out then flew along the fence line. Bingo! After years of records virtually every year from a certain small island only a couple of miles away it was good to connect with this lovely Sylvia on the mainland.

The bird showed extremely well all afternoon, feeding actively, flycatching and dozing off at times, and a small band of admirers turned up. Good to see you guys. The plumage, calls and song seem to point towards it being an adult male of the western race, S.c.cantillans. (Edit - it's a 2nd calendar year male). There's a series of nice images by Phil Bellman over at this website.



  1. Well done Andrew. By God you deserved that bird. Thanks for the call. Wonder if it's still there now?

  2. Bloody hell Wales does get birds then !!

    Very nice find, good work Andrew.

  3. Hi Andy, just a point on the age of your bird, it is a first summer male rather than an adult. The bird shows at least one retained juvenile tertial and all retained immature primaries.


    1. Hi guys thanks for the kind comments. Been very busy last night and all day today so just got online.

      Stringer, you are such a cad! Don't ever diss this part of the west coast or it will be tripods at dawn!

      How about (off the top of my head): Red-eyed Vireo, Black-headed Buntings, Ruppell's Warbler (!), Bluethroat, Lesser Grey', Red-backed' & Woodchat Shrikes, Rose-colopured Starling, Subalp (1985), Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Black Kites, many Melodious, Icterines, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Crane, Woodlarks, Tawny and many Richard's Pipits, Shorelarks, Golden Orioles, Rosefinch, Bee-eater, Ortolan, Glossy Ibis (we're claiming that Steve as we would have seen them from the mainland!), White Stork, Red-rumped Swallows.. all on the patch (within a few square miles around Aberdaron/Uwchmynydd) and mostly during the last decade or two.

      The Royal Tern from a few years back was just down the road, as was a Isabelline Shrike, Surf Scoter, Ring-billed Gull, Black-winged Stilt, and ancient records of Long-billed Dowitcher, Sea Eagle, Lesser Yellowlegs etc

      There is such massive potential; only 3/4 birders (usually less) are active down here with a few more during migration time (apart form the crack team on Bardsey), we have no ringers doing the mainland migrant traps and tons of stuff is missed. Then there's incredible scenery, no crowds of twitchers, amazing vis mig, Choughs galore etc

      And how about the monsters that Bardsey (2 miles offshore) produces on a regular basis! American Robin anyone?

      I rest my case and won't even mention the ones that got away... or maybe I will eg probable Blyth's reed', Little Crake, Savi's Warbler, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (RS Thomas!) and the vocal but unidentified passerine that flew overhead into the sun a few years ago and had me and Rhys swearing like a couple of teenage chavs. I think the dialogue went something like "what the heck was that pray tell?" :-D

      Steve, many thanks for the correction regarding the ID. Had a nosey in the Sylvia monograph last night but was knackered and not paying enough attention. I'd noticed the blackish-brown primaries in the field but thought the intense winey colour was too extensive on the underparts for a 1st summer. Ah, another read says the primary coverts are the clincher. The various photos help to clarify all this.

      Anyway, a bit of humble pie is always very good for the digestion and will hopefully sharpen my blunt ID skills in the future :-D

  4. Superb Andy! Just reward for all those hours. Looking forward to get down there at the end if May :-)

  5. Doh, excuse my hyper-sensitivity to the patch. How silly of me to think that Mr Stringer was biased towards the avian delights of Northumbria's gorgeous east-facing coast ;-p

    Marc, be great to link up again for a morning at the end of May. Let's hope the weather is kind and the migrants are pouring in.

  6. Well done Andy. (We met briefly at Pwlhelli harbour last year.) Me and the missus were walking from Aberdaron the day before, so in a parallel universe the subalp could have been mine. And in the interests of marital harmony I didn't even come back down your way when I saw it on RBA. Her 50th birthday see, so I really didn't want to rock the boat too much!

    Good week though for this semi-dude birder. Cracking adult Little Gull in Porthmadog (shared with Elfyn who I'd just met), Osprey over there later in the week, and Yellow Wags at Conwy on the way home. Highlight of the week for me though has to be the Arctic Tern passage past our cottage in Criccieth. Literally 100's past on Wednesday until the winds got so strong they wrecked onto the stony beach beneath the castle. Nature in the raw and I watched it mug-in-hand from the comfortable side of double glazing!

    1. Hi Paul

      Sounds like you've been enjoying some nice birds in the area. The Arctic Tern passage has been amazing this spring with birds recorded all over the UK, including many inalnd waters. I even had 3 at Llyn Padarn, Llanberis last week. Incredible to think they've just been to Antarctica for the winter!

      Good to hear from you and congratulations to your other half. She has you well trained by the sound of it :-D

      All the best


      PS I like the expression semi-dude, and feel like it's the way to go; keen enough to go birding - sensible enough to be comfortable in the process.