8 Dec 2013

8 Dec 13 - A December Hippo

A couple of days ago, I got a phone call from local Birder, Peter Williams, about a Hippo in Winspit. Peter was referring to a Hippolais Warbler, either a Melodious or an Icterine Warbler. Both are scarce migrants in Dorset, usually in August & Portland is about the best place in the UK to see a Melodious Warbler, but even then, there are only a handful of records each year. Icterine Warblers are less common still in Dorset, but are more regular on the East Coast. Away from Portland, both are even rarer in Dorset.

I wasn't able to get down that afternoon, but Nick Hopper could. Nick & Peter both watched it that afternoon & they confirmed it was a Melodious Warbler. This is probably one of the latest ever records in the UK. I wasn't able to try looking for it till this afternoon, but with the sun out, decided to give it a try.
A Hippo was almost as unlikely as a UK December Hippolais Warbler: Note, the African Pied Wagtail enjoying the ride & flies (photo from my first Kenya trip in 1987)
After missing it on a couple of occasions as it moved up & down the valley this afternoon, I finally heard it was on view again in late afternoon. By the time I got there, it had gone to ground again, but a few minutes later, I picked it on in a bush on the far slope. Fortunately, it stayed on view on & off over the next 5 minutes or so & allowed me to fire off some photos. Whilst I'm not going to win any prizes for the photos, they do confirm the identification.
Melodious Warbler
Melodious Warbler: This blow up shows the short primary extension (the length of the exposed primaries beyond the secondaries) which are 1/4 - 1/5 of the overall wing length in Melodious (about 1/3 in Icterine). It also shows the bare faced appearance, long orangey bill & general colouration