HOW TO SEE AN AQUATIC WAR­BLER

Bird Watching (UK) - - Species -

The pos­si­bil­ity of see­ing one of main­land Europe’s rarest birds, as it passes through Bri­tain on its way to Sene­gal dur­ing au­tumn mi­gra­tion, is a real chal­lenge. Not as a wind-blown va­grant, but as a species, fol­low­ing the process of its nor­mal mi­gra­tion. These days it won’t be easy, but there are a few ways to max­imise your chances. Firstly, it’s im­por­tant to get the key iden­ti­fy­ing fea­tures clear, I’ve had a fleet­ing glimpse of a bird that’s got the pulse rac­ing mo­men­tar­ily – in the field Aquatic War­blers can look very sim­i­lar to Sedge War­bler. There are a suite of fea­tures that need to be checked to sep­a­rate the two, and the best place to start is with the cen­tral crown stripe. Al­though Sedge War­blers can show the hint of a pale crown stripe, on Aquatic War­bler it’s well de­fined and ob­vi­ous. Aquatic War­bler will also show a gen­er­ally yel­lower base colour­ing to the body, lighter than the over­all rus­set tones of Sedge, along with prom­i­nent black and yel­low streaks on the back and a streaked rump. The lores, be­tween the eye and the beak, should be pale, giv­ing Aquatic War­bler an ‘open face’ ex­pres­sion. Ringers who’ve had Aquatic War­bler in the hand have as­sured me that a spikey or ragged look­ing end to the tail is a pro-aquatic fea­ture and not just as a re­sult of wet feath­ers clump­ing to­gether, as has been sug­gested. The bird reg­u­larly perches in a char­ac­ter­is­tic way, ac­ro­bat­i­cally grab­bing the stems of dif­fer­ent plants in ei­ther foot.

Prom­i­nent back streak­ing and striped head

Aquatic War­bler Pale lores Streaks on breast

Yel­low­ish plumage tones

Sedge War­bler Dark lores Adult has un­streaked breast

Warm plumage, less streaked

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