9 December 2009

The secretive Cetti's Warbler

The nature lover has to work harder for his pleasures in winter.

The boldly coloured plumages have generally gone (ducks, you are an honorable exception), the floral displays have died back, and even the fiery reds of autumn are fading from memory. In their place come more subtle delights - the sheer scale of winter flocks (coastal waders, roosting starlings, wetland lapwings), the spiders' webs clinging tenaciously to dying foliage, the stark silhouettes of newly-naked trees. Perhaps even the occasional unexpected gull species among huge inland flocks of black-headed gulls (one for the connoisseur, this!).

But one joy remains - there is still birdsong. Today at Brandon I was largely led by my ears, following the melancholic song of the robins, the strident declarations of wrens, the soft piping of bullfinches, the cacophony of lapwing and the toy-squeaking of a large mixed flock of siskin, lesser redpoll and goldfinch.

Even among all of this though, one voice stood out - that of the Cetti's Warbler. If you haven't heard it, then follow the link below to the RSPB site and listen to their recording. It's an extraordinary sound, explosive, melodic, electronic, perhaps even frightening. But perhaps most extraordinary of all is the fact that I have heard it on every single visit to Brandon over the last seven or so years (we're lucky to have them breeding there), but I have never until today actually seen one there.

They are legendarily secretive, even furtive, so as you can imagine, the sighting was the highlight of my short morning visit. A decent glimpse, broad cocked tail and all, to go with the pair of goldeneye, the seven snipe and the lovely mixed finch flock I've already alluded to.

Bird of the day: Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti), ordinary looking but extraordinary sounding. Nice to finally bag a sighting at Brandon.

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