Saturday 3 October 2015

Weekend target

As you will have gathered from my previous tweet, I am somewhat jealous of all my pals on Shetland. They have the potential to "go large", as they did last year with a Rubythroat, but even if they don't top that, the fact remains that they're knee-deep in Yellow-browed Warblers, and Yellow-browed Warblers rock. Birders not clued up on autumn won't have any idea what I'm talking about. Non-birders who have perhaps landed here by accident looking for domestic pointers will be even worse off. So what's a Yellow-browed then? Well put simply it's a very regular migrant whose frequent occurrence in the UK at this time of year belies the massive distance that it has come. Siberia and the Urals is about the closest they live if you read the literature, yet somehow they are the most regular eastern migrant. They're small, marginally bigger than a Goldcrest, but with the most superb call you could imagine. Writing cannot possible do it justice - its a very high-pitched, very quick and extremely strident "Tsuu-eeee-viit" that sounds like nothing else. It cuts through wind and the rustling of leaves, and is a sound that autumn rarity-hunting birders are very in tune with. Until you've heard it you don't know what it sounds like if that makes sense, and in my case autumn isn't complete without it.

I remember hearing my first one on the north Norfolk coast in about 2008. I knew exactly what it was but I couldn't tick it as I couldn't see it! Can you imagine the frustration, my number one wanted bird somewhere invisible above my head. Later that day I did finally clap eyes on one a few miles down the coast, and since then I've seen them every year and in some numbers. I'm probably on 60 or so now thanks to several trips to Shetland, but the numbers there this year are incredible, with some guys seeing over 40 in a single day. Whilst I can't get to Shetland this year, there was no way I was going to let a year pass by without hearing that magical call, and with birds gradually trickling down the coast I headed off to Norfolk this morning for a spot of coastal birding, with a particular focus on Sycamores for that is what they particularly like. 

There was one at Beeston Common, bouncing around in a Sycamore (!) close to the road and sure enough I picked it up on call just as I'd walked up to local who was explaining how the birds this year just weren't calling. This particular "Tsuu-eee-viit!!" was triumphant in quality, a real "are you sure about that 'cos I'm not!" riposte. Music to my ears. No photos and it remained mostly hidden, but it called its head off for us, and then solely for me as the other people headed back to the sea to twitch a fish. No really, there was a Basking Shark off the coast and they were really interested in seeing it. I'd already seen it from Cley Coastguards, and perhaps was a bit blasé about it. Hey ho, just a big fish, whatever. This however is a Yellow-browed Warbler from Siberia and it's a gem. 

Here's one from Shetland a few years back so you know what I'm talking about - you can see how they get the name.

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