Siberian Chiffchaff a call please!

We have two tall trees in our garden. One of them is a pine in the front yard. Birds that visit it on a regular basis are Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus, Eurasian Magpie Pica pica, Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula, Carrion Crow C corone, Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus, Great Tit Parus major and Common Blackbird Turdus merula. Less frequent are Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto, Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major, Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri, Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius, Goldcrest Regulus regulus, Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus, Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla, Eurasian Wren Nannus troglodytes, European Robin Erithacus rubecula, House Sparrow Passer domesticus and Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs. Since May 2016, when we moved in, I have recorded Common Firecrests R ignicapilla on seven days. But the best bird of all was a Yellow-browed Warbler P inornatus, which spent a couple of minutes in the tree on 8 October 2017. The identification of that bird was straightforward, as it was calling loudly.

On 18 December 2019, while videoing a Rose-ringed Parakeet, I noticed a Phylloscopus warbler high up in the tree. It looked interesting, so I immediately pointed my camera at it. Depicted below are some of the images I captured.

The bird looked like a classic Siberian Chiffchaff P tristis, showing relatively little yellow or green in its plumage and a faint wing-bar. The contrast between the greenish-edged flight feathers and the pale grey-brown upperparts was reminiscent of bonellis warbler P bonelli / orientalis. In the shade, the plumage gave a much more greyish impression. Unfortunately, the bird disappeared after less than three minutes, without calling.

Although I had no doubt that the bird was indeed a Siberian Chiffchaff, I was disappointed not to hear it call. After all, the safest way to identify this species is by its voice. So over the next days, I tried hard to relocate it. I looked in every bush and every garden. I checked every corner of our neighbourhood. Then, on 26 January
39 days after the first sighting the bird finally made a reappearance. Again, it visited the pine in our front yard. Yet again, it moved on quickly without a sound...

To me, this is yet another reminder of just how many good birds will go unnoticed. They can be wintering right under your nose but, despite your best efforts, still elude you. However, I have not given up hope to pin down this bird and hear it just yet. It may still be around for another 10 weeks, before migrating to its breeding range. One call, is that too much to ask for!?...

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Published 31 January 2020