A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Friday, 14 November 2014

Eastern Crowned Warbler in Brotton - 3rd for Britain

With news breaking of the third ever Eastern Crowned Warbler on the Thursday, I was glad that this particular individual decided to stay until the weekend, offering me the chance to catch up with this stunning far eastern vagrant.

Upon arrival at the small patch of woodland adjacent to Brotton Golf Course in Cleveland, we were told that the bird had just been showing well in one of the small Sycamore trees, but had flitted off and out of sight 2 minutes before we got there. That wasn’t going to deter us or the hundreds of other birders still present, and we joined the crowd to wait for the bird to reappear.

After a tense (for me…. Alex had seen the 2009 bird in County Durham) wait for around 20 minutes, the warbler made a reappearance in what was now deemed to be its favoured tree, and with us luckily positioned just below it and at the front of the crowd, we were treated to excellent views as it hopped from branch to branch.

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Sometimes remaining hidden in the leaves, the small warbler often proved difficult to locate, especially when sitting perched motionless – the lemony green and white colouration camouflaging it perfectly amongst the foliage. However, it seemed very obliging, undeterred by the hundreds of eyes all fixed on it, showing considerably well and often remaining stationary in one place allowing for several photo opportunities.

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Miraculously, this was 3 years to the day exactly since the second Eastern Crowned Warbler for Britain was found, trapped and ringed in Hertfordshire after originally being ID’d as a Yellow-browed Warbler. The fact that the very first for Britain back in 2009 was also primarily mis-identified as a Yellow-browed, means that this individual at Brotton is the only one out of the three to be correctly identified in the field by the finder.

Eastern Crowned WarblerTravelling from the far east and such locations as China, the Eastern Crowned is structurally most similar to the profile of an Arctic Warbler in size and shape, differing in key features such as the dark rear crown - which is also wider at the hind on Eastern Crowned Warblers. The lemony undertail coverts were clear to see as the bird dashed through the canopy, as was the bright, clean white underparts – more reminiscent of a Wood Warbler. The orange lower mandible and darker upper mandible were also apparent, as was the large white supercilium (reminiscent of Arctic), two wing bars and on occasion the pale central crown stripe.


Eastern Crowned Warbler

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Eastern Crowned Warbler
You can just about see the central crown stripe

As the bird did a bunk on the Saturday night, you have to feel for those that couldn’t make it until the Sunday, a dip possibly made worse by the no-show of the Blackpoll Warbler further up the coast at Easington which was discovered early on the Sunday and quickly vanished in to thin air. However, the fact that three have now turned up in the space of 5 years must offer some comfort - it is surely only a matter of time before the next is found darting around the canopy in an east coast location.

The discovery of both the Eastern Crowed and the Blackpoll Warbler really goes to show the potential of these small coastal patches of woodland and obscure pockets of habitat – the mind boggles at just what hidden treasures might lurk amongst them waiting to be discovered. If the finder hadn’t happened to just look back as he was leaving the woods that morning, then this third for Britain would undoubtedly have remained undiscovered – as must so many megas that reach our shores undetected and see out their days hiding away in unobtrusive locations, tantalisingly close to human habitation and just waiting to be stumbled upon by chance by the right person. 

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