Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

THERE ARE VERY few war­bler songs which the vast ma­jor­ity of bird­watch­ers can in­stantly recog­nise. The Chif­fchaff is the most ob­vi­ous ex­cep­tion, with the Cetti’s War­bler having a rea­son­able case for se­cond place, at least for bird­watch­ers in the south­ern half of the coun­try. The dis­tinc­tive­ness of the shouted song is just as well, oth­er­wise we would hardly be aware of this most elu­sive of birds. Un­like a Vic­to­rian child, the Cetti’s War­bler is to be heard and not seen. This is a bit of a shame, as Cetti’s War­blers are re­ally quite hand­some for lit­tle brown jobs, look­ing like a bit of a large, long-tailed, un­streaked Wren, with pleas­ingly ru­fous plumage tones. But skulk­ers they are, hid­ing within tan­gles as well as reed fringes, usu­ally at a site near wa­ter. These tough, year-round res­i­dent war­blers have made a re­mark­able ex­pan­sion in re­cent decades. They were un­heard of (and un­heard) as a breed­ing bird un­til the late 1960s, with breed­ing con­firmed for the first time in 1973. There were nearly 100 prob­a­ble breed­ing pairs be­fore a mas­sive crash af­ter se­vere win­ters in the mid-1980s. But, by 1996, there were as many as 600 ter­ri­to­ries in the UK and the Chan­nel Is­lands. Since that time, the pop­u­la­tion has dou­bled ev­ery four to seven years, and there is now a pop­u­la­tion of about 2,000 singing, in a dis­jointed pop­u­la­tion from the south coast of England up to the Mid­lands and Wales, and even up into York­shire and Lan­cashire. It is a suc­cess story worth cel­e­brat­ing. So, raise a glass each time you hear one, even if rais­ing your binoc­u­lars will prob­a­bly be a waste of time.

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