“You like your birds don’t you Lu?” a colleague asked me Wednesday evening as I packed up my things ready to leave work.
“A bit,” came my understated reply.
“Did you know that there’s a Yellow-browed Warbler in town?”
“WHAT?!” I exclaimed!
I’ve never managed to make my way into the world of ‘twitching’ because, as a general rule, I never make a plan on my bird watching excursions. Occasionally I’m told of a spot a few miles away, but somehow I never manage to make the journey there. This however was a different case; the bird was actually in my home town. I had to see this bird!
But that particular Wednesday evening I‘d promised to have a beer with a friend. It was the same friend who later waved an article about the warbler from the local newspaper tantalisingly in front of me between gulps of ale. Upon my return home I resolved to leave work early the next day and make my way to the housing estate in which the warbler had been spotted!
The Yellow-browed Warbler, as the name suggests, has a yellow eye stripe, or brow. It is not much bigger than the Goldcrest and gives a similar call to the Coal Tit.
The reason why spotting a warbler of this kind has caused such excitement in my Midlands hometown stems from the fact that this bird is more at home in the far distant lands of Nepal and Siberia. Normally if it lands in the UK it gravitates to coastal woodlands. Only 5 have ever been recorded as being seen in Worcester! This Yellow-browed Warbler is a very rare and special visitor indeed!
Thursday my resolve was still strong, but I’d resigned myself to the fact the bird would have probably moved on by now. Morris-Henshaw, a local author and friend on Twitter, had expressed an interested in joining me on my first ‘twitch’, and I was only too happy to share my excitement with someone! Within minutes of our arriving at the reported area the bird was heard and shortly after seen; we got a brilliant clear view of that striking yellow eye stripe…
A dog walker kicked a florescent orange football into the bush that Morris-Henshaw and I were peering at, and then a dog followed in hot pursuit! In hindsight, it’s quite enraging to think back on! The little bird vanished from sight and sound! But I was so excited to have seen the bird I didn’t care about the football at the time! I decided to return to this housing estate at the weekend for second search…
…and so today I armed myself with my camera and made my way to the local cycle path that is now home to a tiny Warbler blown off its migratory course. I walked the length of the path but nothing was seen – ‘it was a long shot’ I thought to myself as I walked back.
Then I heard something new…
I stopped and looked – ‘that’s a Sparrow‘ I thought as I quite definitely heard a Sparrow’s call above my head, but I stayed put nevertheless. Then a tiny bird bounced round the back of the hedgerow, barely visible. It called as it hopped to a branch; giving me a clear and lingering view… it was the warbler! Grinning from ear to ear I took a few photos before it flew off.
I happily headed back towards the car, being stopped along the way by a curious local resident who, on seeing my photographic kit, asked me if I’d managed to spot the city’s new VIP. I beamed a smile back and replied “yes”, then the resident and I viewed my photos as we happily chatted away.
Just before I reached my car the Yellow-browed Warbler bounced back into view, right in front of me! It gave me a far closer view than I’d gained from the other side of the hedge! I took a few more photos before it finally departed. Then it was my turn to depart too… with a little celebratory dance!
Though this photo is not of framing quality (nor my best), they are a record of the Yellow-browed Warbler’s visit to Worcester in March 2011…
…and of my first, and very successful, ‘twitch’.
In going to find this warbler I ventured into an area of my town I don’t normally visit. That will not be the case from now on! I set out to that cycle-path to find one particular bird, but I found so much more! Sandwiched between a main road and a housing estate, the cycle-path is a wildlife haven, a green corridor, full of life! Goldfinches, Great tits, Blue tits, Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds to name a few. I have no doubt there will be much more when the other migrant warblers arrive. Oh, and we mustn’t forget ‘Marmalade’ the cat!