How did you do?
The first impression this bird gives is of a small, dark, streaky insect-eater. It looks small, partly because it is perching nonchalantly at the top of a dried stem of perhaps an umbellifer, and its head looks large relative to the rest of its body (which is a general indicator of small size). The thin bill suggests an insect diet. It is a chunky little thing, with a short tail and quite long, sturdy legs. The structure, compact shape and general colour all point to this being one of the Saxicola chats, rather than a Wren, pipit or a streaked warbler. So, is it a Stonechat or a Whinchat? The wholly dark tail, lacking a white base rules out Whinchat, as does the pale throat and not particularly distinct supercilium (‘eyebrow’). This is a female-type Stonechat.
KEY FEATURES Compact, large-headed, short-tailed, thin-billed Streaked brown above, plain orange-brown below Pale throat and slight supercilium (‘eyebrow’) Short, wholly dark tail (no white at base)
The first impression this LBJ gives is that it looks a bit like a female House Sparrow. It is of medium build with a medium-long tail and a medium length seedeater’s bill. But House Sparrows are streakier, particularly on the back. The bill shape and sparrow-like structure should be steering you towards this being a finch. The lack of streaks rules out many species (such as the small redpolls, Linnet and Twite). What else have we got to go on? A dark crown and paler cheeks and eyebrow, as well as underparts; a greenish rump just showing through and a hint of white outer tail feathers on the tail. And the clincher, perhaps, is that white wing bar, with another shorter stripe coming across almost perpendicularly. This is a female Chaffinch.
KEY FEATURES Sparrow-like shape and colours Medium-strong, seedeater’s bill Lacks streaking Distinctive wing pattern
Many people are confused by warblers, and this appears to be one. The plain brown plumage and thin bill and thin legs all point to this being part of the warbler family. The first thing to consider when faced with a warbler is which of the genera it belongs to. The plain brown plumage and high steep forehead should have you thinking of the Acrocephalus warblers or perhaps the Hippolais warblers. The latter are rare in the UK, and don’t have such a warm brown colour. Sylvia warblers can also have high, steep foreheads, but they are generally more boldly coloured or chunkier in shape. This has the look of a typical Acrocephalus or reed warbler, as fitting the reed habitat. The plain, warm plumage with minimum features points to Reed Warbler.
KEY FEATURES Warbler shaped, plain, warm brown bird Steep forehead Pale eyering and very short supercilium White throat