Saturday, 20 February 2010

Done and Dusky

Dusky Warbler at Walthamstow: the first confirmed London record.

Six days after news broke, and having covered more than 1,000 miles in between times on our Scottish trip, I finally had the opportunity to try for the Dusky Warbler at Walthamstow Reservoirs this morning. Last night was bitterly cold, but at least today dawned bright and sunny - a positive sign.

A text from Shaun Harvey and smiling faces in the car park when I arrived on site indicated that the bird was still there, and within minutes of reaching the northern end of Lockwood Reservoir I was at last able to settle an old score with Dusky Warbler in London (see last post).

The bird called constantly as it worked its way along the fenceline brambles, occasionally flycatching or dropping to feed on the ground. The distinct pale supercilium was probably its most obvious feature, though on close inspection its feet appeared strikingly yellow, as did the basal two thirds of the lower mandible. More obvious from images than in the field were its rather rounded wing shape and also a very slight olive tone to the secondaries, something I've not noticed on Dusky Warblers before (could the fact that I usually see this species in autumn account for the difference?).

Winter records of this Asian Phyllosc are rare but not unknown, and presumably this bird has either survived the winter here or moved in recently, perhaps after the latest cold snap on the Continent. It was interesting to have three Common Chiffchaffs in the same area for comparison, too - there is clearly no shortage of insect food here despite the weather.

Among the crowd this morning were Andrew Moon, scoring the bird at his second attempt, Mark Pearson, Roy Woodward, Walthamstow regular Pete Lambert and fellow Rainham birder Priscille Preston, who got a remarkable digiscoped image of the bird. A Slavonian Grebe - my second in London this year - was also conveniently in residence on the Lockwood; by coincidence, it was on this same group of reservoirs where I saw my 'life' Slavonian Grebe 32 years ago.

I set aside the next few hours ambitiously chasing another London tick, Pink-footed Goose, in the hope that the two recent birds in the Rainham/Ingrebourne area would be refound. They weren't, so I had to satisfy myself with distant views of the three White-fronted Geese and a Red-crested Pochard on the reservoir near Berwick Ponds. Still, any day featuring a new London bird can't be bad.

Below, from top: Slavonian Grebe at Walthamstow, and Red-crested Pochard and White-fronted geese (with a single Greylag, right) in the Ingrebourne Valley.


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