Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria at Grimley Old Workings 16th October 2011
The 16th October 2011 was to our first ‘winter’ ringing session at Grimley Old Workings. Our main target species were Redwings Turdus iliacus and Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret, both of which had recently appeared in appreciable numbers. Six people were present that morning: Fergus Henderson, John Hodson, George Henderson, Shaun Micklewright, Claire Dovey and James Hitchcock. As the morning progressed it was clear that a lot of birds were on the move, particularly thrushes, finches, pipits and Skylarks Alauda arvensis overhead.
We were catching steadily, aided by some very effective tape lures. Six mist-nets were in use and one net, set in some bramble scrub, on a bank, above the main reed bed, was particularly successful, accounting for over 50% of the total catch of 120 birds of 18 species. At about 11am, the catches started to dwindle, so it was decided to take down the nets and call it a day. The lower nets, in the willow scrub, were taken down and the small catch of birds carried to the ringing base to be processed. At this point, two of the ringers, John Hodson and Shaun Micklewright left, leaving myself, George and Claire to finish the session. James had already departed earlier in the morning, after the main rush of birds was over. I went to take down the top net, leaving George and Claire to process the catch. It was 11.45am. When I got to the net I could see that it was ‘dripping’ (a ringer’s term for lots of birds) with birds; mainly Greenfinches Carduelis chloris. I set about the task of extracting the birds as quickly as possible.
As I worked down the net, my eye was caught by a rather chunky bird in the middle shelf, which I immediately recognised as a Sylvia warbler. We had already caught a Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla earlier that morning so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see another in the net. However, my initial impression was that this bird was much bigger and longer than a Blackcap and, that the head lacked a ‘cap’. My next thought was of Garden Warbler S. borin which would have been surprising given that it was the middle of October. I was intrigued. I extracted the bird I was working on and went to the mystery warbler. By this time it had moved in the net and presented its underside to my view. When I saw the heavily marked undertail coverts I immediately knew the bird I was looking at was a Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria. A few heart-thumping moments later, the bird was safely extracted from the net and placed in a bag. I hastily took down the net and returned to the ringing base to break the news to George and Claire.
At that point, I decided to ring a few people as I knew it would probably attract a fair bit of attention and interest from local bird watching experts. Whilst we waited for people to arrive we decided to ring and process the bird quickly to reduce any stress on the bird. I aged it as a hatchling of the year (Euring code 3) based on its drab plumage and lack of bright eye. Interestingly, it was carrying a lot of fat, which suggested to me that it may have been present on site for quite a while.
Eventually, people arrived to see and photograph the bird (Figs. 1, 2, 3, & 4.) and it was eventually released at about 13.15p.m., approximately an hour and a half after its capture. Unfortunately for the watchers it flew off strongly over a high line of trees and was never relocated.
This record constitutes the first record for Worcestershire and is only the second Barred Warbler to be found in the central midlands; the first being a bird ringed at Brandon Marsh in 1979.
[Note. The Barred Warbler is annual but scarce passage migrant in England. It breeds in Italy, Germany and Sweden, east to Mongolia, and winters in NE Africa and Arabia. Spring records in England are rare. In autumn they are more frequent, occurring mainly in coastal areas and rarely inland. Ed]
Fig. 1. Barred Warbler juvenile Grimley Old Workings 16 October 2011. Andy Warr
Fig. 2. Barred Warbler juvenile Grimley Old Workings 16 October 2011. Andy Warr
Fig. 3. Barred Warbler juvenile Grimley Old Workings 16 October 2011. Andy Warr
Fig. 4. Barred Warbler juvenile Grimley Old Workings 16 October 2011. Andy Warr