Yesterday was brilliant! Not only did I manage a walk without getting wet, but I also saw my first-ever Yellow-browed warbler.
I didn’t discover the bird – local birder extraordinaire Graham did that and put the word out on Twitter. The bird had been seen about half way along the coastal path between Penarth and Lavernock, so I kept a keen eye out as I walked in case the warbler had wandered further along the path. The hedgerows were alive with birds but it wasn’t until I got close to the original location that two other local birders alerted me to the bird’s presence.
The Yellow-browed warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) is a ‘scarce autumn passage migrant’ (Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report no.57) in south Wales. Most years there are just a handful of sightings, though that can vary dramatically – in 2016, there were 26 sightings reported, which earned the adjective ‘extraordinary’ from the bird report writer (Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report no.55).
This is a small warbler, smaller than a Chiffchaff, and a very active feeder, so it can be tricky to spot in dense foliage, but I knew to look for its ‘yellow brow’, the thick stripe above its eye, and the two stripes on its wings, the top one quite short, the lower longer. It also has a distinctive call that is crisper than that of a Chiffchaff or Willow warbler, and similar to a Coal tit.
I watched the bird – or perhaps I should say I stared at the bushes where the bird was – for about 45 minutes. Its intermittent calling helped find this little leaf flitter when it vanished for short periods, though I found it easiest to just watch for movement. It mostly seemed content to stay within a small area, a temporary feeding territory my bird guide calls it, and it was certainly defending that territory, aggressively chasing away a Chiffchaff that flew in. Eventually, I could see rain clouds on the horizon and judged it prudent to head homewards, but what a fabulous encounter I had enjoyed with my first Yellow-browed warbler!