Sunday, 5 October 2008

It Pays to Pish?

Dan again.

I've persisted in searching for migrant passerines in the parish the past few days- spending inordinate lengths of time pishing up trees in Freeman's Wood for the most part!

The wood has been holding between 8 and 25 goldcrests daily, up to ten chiffchaffs and a whole heap of tits. The day before last I heard a call that reminded me of y.b. warbler, but whatever it was only piped up once before it melted!

Today, a silvery-looking songbird flitted out and up from the hedge that bisects Fairfield paddocks (cf. Jon's map!) in response to my whistling.

It was obviously a flycatcher- but which?
It landed at 20ft above me (up an ash)- at which point I could rule out spotted (no striations- clean white) and red-breasted (on under-tail pattern).

It flew on and I re-found it 80 metres away in the community orchard- an obvious white wing-bar.
I wanted to scrutinise such a late migrant 'pied'. Initially I thought it looked like an adult female, rather than a more likely 1st-winter bird. I got good views of a pale, greyish-brown flyca and began to try and rule out semi-collared and collared flycatcher... Not as easy as I thought...Especially since I didn't know what I needed to look out for....

The face was pale, and 'open'-looking- with the jet black bill and eye looking unusually conspicuous. The lores quite pale aswell. The crown was a little lighter than the mantle- a 'milky', 'mushroom' kinda colour!

After awhile, (thinking I'd lost the bird for good) I hobbled home and checked a field guide which showed both female-type semi and collared flycatchers as lighter and gentler-looking than pied I began to sweat.

I hobbled back to the scene and eventually re-found it just 50 metres from where I'd last seen it- it was flycatching in willows. I noted that the rump was concolourous with the mantle and tail (bad news for a collared?) and that the white in the wing looked more restricted as with pied.

Later, when Pete Crooks came to my aid- a small median covert bar was also showing in the more contrasty late sunlight.

The under-tail (it was above us- wood warbler style!) was mid-dark grey with white outers. It was tame and silent throughout....

Cheers to Pete and Ray for coming out and giving their thoughts.

Anyway-- almost certainly a pied....that's enough of the boring story of an interesting little bird!

Tomorrow- Dan looks at a house sparrow for too long...

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