Fath­om­ing bird perched on ship

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

DON’T be­lieve what ‘they’ tell you, that the end of the writ­ten word and newsprint is nigh; it is not true and there’s many a year to be had yet, be­fore pens and pa­per are ob­so­lete, and this let­ter from Mr and Mrs Brian Ar­mitt is the per­fect ex­am­ple, that we hu­mans still ap­pre­ci­ate the per­sonal touch.

“My wife and I are hop­ing that you can help us iden­tify the bird in this pho­to­graph. We were on a Mediter­ranean cruise re­cently and mid­way be­tween Barcelona and Cor­sica, miles from any land, this lit­tle chap landed on our bal­cony.

“He hopped about for sev­eral min­utes, al­low­ing me to take the pic­ture, but then a gust of wind blew him up­wards to another deck. Would he have been mi­grat­ing some­where on July 9?” The pho­to­graph was pretty good, and I could tell im­me­di­ately that it was a war­bler, and that it looked very tired.

How­ever, when it comes to war­blers, some are eas­ier to name than oth­ers, while oth­ers are down­right im­pos­si­ble, not least be­cause the reader-snap­shots, are just that, pho­to­graphs taken quickly in an at­tempt to ‘record’ the bird.

There then fol­lows a quick dis­pens­ing of cer­tain species, for ex­am­ple this bird had no vis­i­ble stripes, or in­deed any dis­tinc­tive colour or pat­terns at all, and looks to be olive-green­ishyel­low, although the pho­to­graph is over- ex­posed due to shoot­ing into the light, which fur­ther adds to the frus­tra­tion and dif­fi­culty.

It’s not that I’m afraid of mak­ing a fool of my­self you un­der­stand, as you can be sure that some ex­perts would pounce like a spar­rowhawk if I even got it half-wrong.

My thoughts are that it is an ic­ter­ine war­bler, and that the bird had ei­ther landed on the boat while in the har­bour or had been blown out to sea and was tak­ing a rest. ●● Fam­ily: War­blers – Sylvi­dae Ap­pear­ance: Re­sem­bles Wil­low War­bler but larger and par­tic­u­larly has a larger head.

Tail has even tip, with pale edges to out­er­most feath­ers. Legs bluish, beak thick at base. Un­der­parts pale yel­low, up­per parts grey­ish green. Size: Length 12–13.5 cm, weight 11–15g. Nest: Usu­ally in a de­cid­u­ous tree at a height of 1–4 me­tres. Made of skill­fully wo­ven grass, spi­ders’ webs and beard lichen, cov­ered with birch bark scales and lichen, and lined with hair, root fi­bres and thin grass stalks. Nest bowl deep. Breed­ing: Be­tween four and seven eggs laid in May–June, usu­ally in­cu­bated ex­clu­sively by fe­male for 11–14 days. Fledglings re­main in nest for 13–16 days. Oc­cur­rence: Breeds across main­land Europe and is not en­dan­gered. Mi­gra­tion: By night, leav­ing Au­gust– Septem­ber, re­turn­ing May–June af­ter win­ter­ing in trop­i­cal Africa. Diet: In­ver­te­brates. Calls: Sharp tri-syl­labic call “che-che feet”. Song rapid, very var­ied and melo­di­ous, per­formed dur­ing the day­time, usu­ally from a perch high in a tree.

Ic­ter­ine War­blers re­sem­ble the more com­mon Wil­low War­bler, but are larger and par­tic­u­larly have larger heads.

They have grey­ish green up­per parts and pale yel­low un­der­parts. The pale edges of their sec­ondary wing feath­ers form a pale wing panel that stands out on their oth­er­wise dark wings. Their tails have a straight­edged tip and white edg­ing on their out­er­most feath­ers.

Their wings are rel­a­tively long, re­flected in the length of the pro­trud­ing tips of their pri­mary wing feath­ers com­pared to the length of their ter­tial feath­ers.

Younger birds have paler yel­low or even whitish un­der­parts with no yel­low colour­ing, mak­ing them re­sem­ble the rare Oli­va­ceous War­bler – which can be distin­guished by its much shorter pri­mary wing feath­ers.

Ic­ter­ine War­blers have bluish grey legs, dark brown irises, and brown beaks with a broad base – lower mandible yel­low­ish pink. Bright or­ange colour­ing may be seen in the gapes of singing Ic­ter­ine War­blers.

The Laugh­ing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

●● Ic­ter­ine War­bler

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