Tuesday 29 June 2021

River Warbler Twitch

Well this spell of bloggers-block had to come to an end eventually.  I ceased blogging before the end of spring and we are now only a couple of days from July!

I still have some of spring 2021 to relive, but to ease me back in gently I have a tale to tell of a rare Axe Birding twitch...

A River Warbler made itself at home at Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels from early June. Being a species I hadn't seen before, as well as the fact it was clearly performing very well in an area that is always teaming with wildlife, I was keen. Unusually keen.

In a strange twist of fate, less than an hour after my planned twitch to Ham Wall fell through, out of nowhere Jess suggested we spent my next day off at Clarke's shopping village, near Glastonbury.  And get this, she even suggested a walk on the Levels afterwards! That was without me saying a thing about it - how fine tuned are we!  I was only too happy to agree with her proposal...

So mid afternoon on 11th June, Mr, Mrs and Master Axe Birder could be seen wandering along the path at Ham Wall, with Mr Axe Birder being completely blown away by the bird-life!  And I don't just mean the pin-up species like Marsh Harriers, Great White Egrets, Cuckoos, Hobbies, etc. Being quite a strict patch birder, even the likes of Pochard and Gadwall were a treat to see.  

Pochard and Tufted Duck in the same photo! The stuff of Axe dreams.

It is just so amazing at how 'common' Great White Egrets have become on the Levels. I literally got bored counting them.  What a success, a simple 'create the habitat and the birds will come' story.

A nice male Marsh Harrier, saw at least three of these and a couple of females

And then came the star bird.  What a star.  Singing the whole time we were within ear shot, even still going as we walked back towards the car on the opposite bank.  An amazing sound, but it was the fact it just sat out in full view that really blew me away, not a view you'd expect from any locustella warbler...

A habitat shot, always seemed to perch on more substantial bits of scrub within the young reedbed it favoured

Singing its heart out

Those undertail coverts and rounded tail tip are such a distinctive locustella feature, as is that streaked breast. It looked quite a stocky bird too, although it's not always easy to judge size on a lone dark bird in a rather feature-less landscape.

I must be honest though, I did go away feeling incredibly sorry for it.  A lone male warbler singing as much as this bird is clearly desperate to find a mate. He sang daily, practically all day long (and probably well into the night) for over two weeks. Poor fella. On the last day or two he was reported to be looking the worse for wear, but hopefully his eventual departure was down to realising he had no chance and not because he had fatally overdone it. If he is still going next summer, fingers crossed he chooses somewhere with other River Warblers!

Something I did keep thinking was just how amazing it was this lone small (and usually secretive) warbler chose to set up territory right alongside this footpath, when it could have chosen anywhere else on the vast expanse of the Somerset Levels. And anyone who knows the Levels will know just how much of that expanse is well away from any public areas.  Very fortunate indeed, and I know this stroke of luck made many birders very happy over the course of its stay.

Oh, and as for the shopping trip? Well that wasn't all that bad either...

Home from home

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