Fathoming bird perched on ship
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