Just felt the need to do a small post on Chiffchaffs as the possible tristis that I heard at Musselburgh got me interested. I’ve been trying to get photos of any Chiffchaffs that I’ve seen recently and in 5 trips I’ve managed to photograph 2 Chiffchaffs, despite hearing loads. They just aren’t as showy this time of year, but still nice and vocal, hweet-ing away deep within an Elder or high up in a Willow.
“Siberian” Chiffchaffs differ from your everyday run-of-the-mill Chiffchaff in few ways. As I said in my post on Musselburgh last week, the call was different. Not the rising “hweet” of the ones I hear on patch. It’s a less happy sounding call; “hii(e)p”, check out Xeno Canto to see what I mean ( http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Phylloscopus-collybita?query=ssp:%22tristis%22 ).
Otherwise the features are tricky to pick out. Generally a brown-greyer appearance on head and back, with perhaps a greenish tinge coming through in the wings and rump. The supercillium is completely buff, and has no yellow in it at all, as is the case on it’s breast flanks.
Combining both call and plumage features is the only way to confidently identify a ‘Siberian’ Chiffchaff, says Collins. That’s all very well, but what if the bird you are looking at will not call, as was the case with this remarkably brown individual that was in the shrubs by the burn on my patch.
When first seen, this bird definitely popped the idea of Reed Warbler into the brain, especially given it’s very upright position as it sat on the branch, however that was because it was preening it’s breast and had adopted that position to balance. Still, the brown-ness of this bird seemed unusual, but it wasn’t particularly grey, and after a bit of moving about, and tail dipping and wing flicking, it was just a Chiffchaff after all.
The change in lighting revealed the green/yellow tones coming through, and then it “hweet”-ed and even “chiff-chaff”-ed a bit. So I went home. Hopefully I’ll find something better as a challenging ID so I can really go in depth, as this really definitely was just a Chiffchaff, but it’s good to be optimistic! Here’s the only other Chiffchaff I managed to photograph over the last few days.
Actually, now that I look at those photos I think I managed to photograph the same bird on 2 different occasions!
So, what else has been happening on patch… Well, the field has just been harvested, attracting it’s fair share of Woodpigeons and Corvids, and that in turn has attracted people with guns who were shooting the pigeons a couple days ago, *sigh*. Linnet numbers have also risen, with as many as 50 being present in a nice bouncy flock today, along with about 20 Goldfinches on the thistles by the field. In other finch news, I finally saw signs of Siskins migrating, as 1 flew over heading south-west as I thrashed about in the bushes on the Hermitage Golf Course, frustrated that all I could hear was Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs.
Not many thrushes about except at the bottom of Howe Dean Path where a good number of Song Thrushes have been particularly vocal every time I’m gone past. Presumably migrants, although I haven’t seen any of them so I’ll have to make sure they aren’t Redwings.
Just along the path, passing the council depot, I heard and saw a Red-legged Partridge calling from on of the horse fields there. I wonder if they’ve bred or not.
Balsam Valley (a section of my patch so called due to the excessive amount of Himalayan Balsam growing there) was very busy with Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock and Wren all foraging in and below the shrubs. A few small flocks of Starlings passed over the golf course heading south at regular intervals today; migrating? Or moving to another territory or feeding area?
Black-headed Gull numbers have risen at the pond, and on Craigmillar Park Golf Course, as I see them regularly feeding on the fairways, and the last notable sighting of today was seeing that Buzzard with the pale patches at it’s wingtips.
I had a look on @morgithology’s blog recently, and saw that he’d photographed almost certainly the same bird in 2011, and had said it was likely a 2nd year bird, which means it is now around 6 years old and still hanging about the Hermitage. Nice to get to know a bird!
In non-patch news, I recently ordered Birding Frontiers’ “Challenge Series: Winter” which I’m really looking forward to having a look through. I’m currently getting into more advanced identification (as you might have seen from my Buzzard and Chiffchaff spraff) so this book is really appealing at the moment and perfectly timed as our Redwings are due to arrive soon so I can pick out the ‘Icelandic’ ones amongst them and try to work out where my first Snow Bunting has come from!
Another book that I actually bought at Vane Farm when I was there with my gran is “Seabirds, an identification guide” by Peter Harrison. Whilst slightly out of date and missing a few species which have been split, I think this book will help me to get into sea watching when I’m up in Aberdeen, picking out Pomarine Skuas and Balearic Shearwaters hopefully!
Anyway, I best go to bed and stop rambling on about what a Chiffchaff might look a bit like, or how old a Buzzard is. G’night.
Oh, forgot to mention, I’ve emailed someone who might be able to train me to become a ringer when I’m up in Aberdeen. Even more to look forward to!