Thursday, 13 October 2016

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler

I do recall writing somewhere recently that I didn't want to start another post about 'Arctic' warblers until I had 'evidence' of one of the others! Well, finally, here it is! I started this morning off in Area A, hoping that the suspiciously large-billed and distinctly yellow Phylloscopus from the previous day had stayed overnight and I was delighted to find that it had. Furthermore, when I entered Area A, I clearly heard the distinctive grating rasp of a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus, and assumed that that was what I must have been dealing with the day before. I saw the calling bird and watched it fly towards the centre of the woodlot, and naturally gave chase. It didn't take too long to pick it up feeding in the same spot that it had been in yesterday, and I was able to get one or two more shots of what I presumed now to be a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler.

My shots of the bird were not as good as they had been on the previous day as I spent most of the time trying to get a sound recording of its call. However, the bird refused to call, all except for once, when it flew away calling with the same call I had heard the previous day, one decidedly close to Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis. It disappeared for half an hour or so and, puzzled and disappointed that it was not calling more frequently and starting to doubt the call I had heard earlier (the bird at the entrance had called only once), I began to think about heading off to my reserve woodlot. When I passed the entrance to Area A for a second time, I once more heard the distinctive rasp of Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, and it seems that this bird had never left this area and that I had in fact been looking at a different bird for the best part of an hour!

Straight away I was after a recording of the call, and the bird obliged by calling very infrequently, but calling nevertheless, each time with the distinctive rasping note of Kamchatka Leaf Warbler. I got several recordings, most of them very quiet and noisy due to all the wave and wind activity, but at least one was sufficiently clean (and can be heard here) to generate a sonogram in which the individual clicks that make up the rasp can be clearly seen.

I obviously did not make it to my reserve woodlot, opting instead to follow this bird around to try and get as good a record of it as I could with what little time I had available in the morning. I got a reasonable number of shots of it, but gave up when perhaps the most astonishing thing I have ever seen in Area A happened. A 'tiny Osprey' flew overhead at treetop height and, it looking decidedly odd, I was on to it in a flash, and gobsmacked to find myself looking at a juvenile Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus! Unfortunately, focused on the warbler, I had missed it completely when it had been flying towards me, and all I managed with my camera were rear-end shots. I left Area A immediately to give chase, but was unable to relocate the bird. As I was already outside of the woodlot and sat on my scooter and it was by now mid-morning, I really had to start making tracks home, albeit once more with a very full bag of pleasing 'stuff ' from Qi Gu!

One addendum that needs adding to the post concerns the 'Green-backed Flycatcher' that has been hanging around in my reserve woodlot for the last few days. When I returned home, I had received correspondence from Paul Leader who had attached a photo of a similarly-plumaged female to mine taken in summer on Mount Fuji, Japan (in the range of narcissina). It seems that, contrary to what is published about them, female narcissina can get surprisingly bright yellow below, meaning that an out of range elisae is going to be a very tough bird to claim indeed! Above photos taken in Qi Gu, Tainan County 13/10/16.

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