17 July 2013

Iberian Chiffchaff at Pwll, Llanelli

Sometime during the week before 20th April 2013, a bird with a song that was unknown to the original finder (Ian Morgan, IKM) was heard coming from an area of wet, scrubby pasture next door-but-one from his garden at Pwll, Llanelli. The unseen bird would seemingly also sing from his neighbours` dense boundary hedge. It was constantly singing over the next couple of weeks and the observer eventually resolved to specifically pay attention to this bird, but it was not until 6th May that good views were achieved as it sang from a tall Sycamore in the boundary hedge. Realising that he had a type of Chiffchaff, contact was made with Barry Stewart and Rob Hunt, the latter playing a recording of the bird over the telephone that IKM immediately recognised as the same song. Shortly after, Barry and Rob, accompanied by several others arrived to fully assess the identity of the bird, as well as taking photos and recordings of the distinctive song.
(c) M. Hipkin
Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus is a very rare spring visitor to Britain, but is becoming increasing more frequent, possibly as a result of greater awareness and better understanding of its identification characters. The appearance of the bird at Pwll, fits in well with the arrival pattern of overshooting birds in Northern Europe. Identification was relatively straight forward as this was a singing male that incessantly gave the diagnostic song phrases (and calls) of Iberian Chiffchaff. It was frequently in close proximity to a singing nominate Common Chiffchaff P. Collybita collybita allowing direct comparision. The subtle structural and plumage characters were also consistent with Iberian Chiffchaff; such as the wing length being intermediate between Common Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler; compared with Common Chiffchaff it also showed whiter underparts with a yellowish wash on the vent, throat and fore-part of a bolder supercilium and subtly greener upperparts.
The following video by Mark Hipkin [click here] and a spectrograph taken from one of Rob Hunt’s iPod video recording [click here] shows one complete song phrase, it matching close those of Iberian Chiffchaff shown in British Birds (Collinson & Melling, 2008), allowing for the echo effect on each call element.
Recording made on 7th May 2013 (c) R.O. Hunt
The bird was last heard on 8th July, though it sang less frequently in the latter weeks of its presence.  It is new to Carmarthenshire and a second Welsh record.
Barry Stewart & Ian Morgan
Reference: Collinson, J.M. & Melling, T. (2008) Identification of vagrant Iberian Chiffchaffs – pointers, pitfalls and problem birds, British Birds, 101, April 2008, 174–188.
(c) M. Hipkin
(c) M. Hipkin

1 comment:

Barry Stewart said...

Apologies for clearing the slate, but the main purpose of this blog is to document observations. Time to accept we don't all share the same philosophy - the world would be a boring place if we did!