31 May 2014

31 May 14 - A First For Poole Harbour Out-trumped By A First For Dorset

I decided to head out to Old Harry this morning. The forecast was for sunny at times conditions & light winds. The forecast was similar to the previous few days, which had produced several Bee-eater sightings at Portland & closer to home at Durlston, as well as Red-breasted Flycatcher (Portland), Serin (Portland & Durlston) & Greenish Warbler (Durlston). Therefore, if I had any sense I should be walking around Durlston or going further afield to Portland. But being loyal to my patch, I decided on Old Harry. At least I should get the chance to photograph some Fulmars, which would be a Family photo tick as they breed in small numbers of the cliff here. As expected it was a quiet walk out: the path goes through a few Whitethroat, Blackcap & Chiffchaff territories, but that was about all. Getting to the end there is a small spur of the chalk cliffs which I really enjoy visiting. Most of the grockles (local name for holidaymakers & tourists) miss the small path so it's always worth a look for a bit of peace & quiet. I've never know the name of this small spur, but it's always been Seat Point to me (as there is a stone seat there).
The view of the Old Harry outcrop from Seat Point 
It was still quiet when I got to Old Harry & the Rock Pipits had a family of youngsters feeding on the grassy cliff tops.
Rock Pipit: Adult. This is the nominate petrosus subspecies which occurs throughout the UK, except for the Faeroes, Shelands & Orkneys where it is replaced by kleinschmidti
Rock Pipit: Adult 
Rock Pipit: Juvenile
The chalky outcrops next to Old Harry have always has a few pairs of Great Black-backed Gulls & Herring Gulls breeding on them.
Great Black-backed Gull: Adult
Herring Gull: This is the nominate argenteus subspecies
Rabbit: There are normally some feeding on the grass before the grockles arrive
So far all very much as expected. But looking down at the sea below there were a couple of immature Eiders: this is usually a winter & passage species & they are the first Eiders I've seen in the Summer. Steve Morrison who has birded the Studland area for many years, but now lives in France, has commented that Eiders used to Summer regularly in the 70's & 80's, with up to about 20 birds involved. But the last birds which he is aware of in the Summer were in 1996. They look pretty settled at the moment & are clearly in advanced wing moult, so I'm hoping they will hang around.
Eider: Immature male
Eider: Female
Eider: I can't see them going anywhere quickly with this wing moult
Eider: Here are the wings of the male
While I was photographing the Eider, I was surprised to hear a Yellow Wagtail call. This wouldn't be that unusual in April when the majority of Spring birds move through Dorset, but it was the end of May. Turning round to look at it I realised it wasn't the normal British subspecies of Yellow Wagtail (flavissima) & assumed it was a Blue-headed Wagtail (flava) or perhaps a 'Channel Wagtail' which is an intermediate population between the flavissima & flava. I am still trying to learn all the features of Yellow Wagtail races, but couldn't remember the Blue-headed features off the top of my head (but I will be able to do so in the future now). So I grabbed a few quick photos in case it flew off. Photos taken, it then flew another 20 metres away, before landing to feed again. At this point, I pulled out the phone to ring local birder, Paul Morton. I wanted to check he had seen Eider this year as he is doing a Poole Harbour Year List & while it's unlikely to miss Eider during the year in the harbour, it's better to see one early on to avoid any stress about dipping towards the end of the year. He had, but then the conversation went in a more interesting way. He said he was out on Morden Bog, leading a Birds of Poole Harbour guided walk & was watching an interesting Raptor perched up & couldn't see why this pale bird wasn't a Short-toed Eagle. He had photos & was going to send me some to look at given this would be the third UK record before the news was released. Obviously before putting the news out he wanted a second opinion as this would likely to start a major twitch. At this point, I lost all interest in the Wagtail & decided that I had better start heading back to the car as it was only 20 minutes drive away (but over 30 minutes walk to the car). If it was a Short-toed Eagle it would be one of the birds of the year for the UK. Whilst not a UK tick, it would be a First for Dorset. But first it needed confirming, but I felt confident in Paul's thoughts on the bird, to call a few locals & provisionally warn them.
Looking back to Studland from Seat Point: It was 5 minutes back to Seat Point, but another 30 minutes walk to my car parked by the church, in the village just visible above the right end end of the chalk promontory. I tend to park here, not for religious or free parking, but because it's always worth checking the churchyard for migrants
Anyway, back to the Wagtail story. I didn't get the chance to look at the photos till about 22:00 that evening. A quick check revealed it wasn't a Blue-headed Wagtail as the head colouration would have been paler ashy grey & it would have also had a stronger white supercilium. Channel Wagtails have a paler, more lavender-coloured head still with a strong white supercilium, broadening behind the eye. So this is a lot more interesting & rarer race. Frustratingly, it's also a female bird as indicated by the extend of white on the throat & breast & these Yellow Wagtail races are tricky enough as Summer plumage males. I circulated one of the photos to some of the local birders & had responses back from Shaun Robson & Marcus Lawson, who also backing my private thoughts (at that stage) of Grey-headed Wagtail (thanks guys) & an email was posted that evening to the Dorset birders. Note, all photos have been cropped & sharpened, but no other changes have been made to the photos.
Grey-headed Wagtail: Female. Note the dark crown & darker ear coverts
Grey-headed Wagtail: Female
Grey-headed Wagtail: Female. A thin supercilium is visible in this photo
Grey-headed Wagtail: Female. A better view of the broken gorget, Unfortunately, it never turned its body towards me
Grey-headed Wagtail: Female. A clearer view of the white throat and the gorget 
Grey-headed Wagtail: Female
Grey-headed Wagtail: Male. This is what a male looks like & I would have worked this out immediately, having seen a couple of birds in a Yellow Wagtail flock in India at Desert Coursers, Gujurat, India (18 Jan 14). Males have a medium grey upper head, darker ear coverts, generally little or no pale supercilium behind the eye, a white moustachial & a yellow throat
Looking at photos on the internet, the biggest problem for females seems to be ruling out an Ashy-headed Wagtails from a Grey-headed Wagtail. So here goes with why I think it's a Grey-headed Wagtail. Being a female it's more tricky than for males. Starting with the call. I wasn't listening to it in a very analytical way, but it sounded like a normal Yellow Wagtail to my ears. But I don't think the call is going to help, except to rule out Black-headed Wagtail race of Yellow Wagtail (which it isn't anyway). The best information I've managed to find on the identification of Yellow Wagtail races so far is the Handbook of Bird Identification for Europe and the Western Palearctic by Madge & Beaman. The main problem seems to be ruling out a vagrant Ashy-headed Wagtail, cinereocapilla, as the other potential problem subspecies (Blue-headed Wagtail flava) has already been eliminated by the darkness of the face and ear-coverts & the lack of an obvious supercilium:-
Grey-headed Wagtail (thunbergi)
Typical adult females in Summer resembles those of flava, but the supercilium is weaker or absent, the head is darker & it has a dusky partial breast band. Grey-headed Wagtails breed from Scandinavia to Western Siberia & Winter in Sub-Saharan Africa & South & SE Asia.
Ashy-headed Wagtail (cinereocapilla) 
Typical adult females in Summer have dark crown and ear-coverts, sometimes a weak supercilium behind the eye resembling thunbergi, but the throat whiter and breast band less defined or absent. Ashy-headed Wagtails breed in italy, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and Slovenia & Winter in West Central Africa.
Grey-headed Wagtail: Female. A final photo of the First for Poole Harbour
It looks like Grey-headed Wagtail, thunbergi, is the best fit for this bird based upon the darker grey on the face, the weak supercilium & the partial breast band. If accepted, it will be the 7th record for Dorset & the first for Poole Harbour. I'm now circulating the pictures more widely & if anybody has any useful comments, please add them to the blog. The previous records are:-
Portland Bill: 24 September 1977
Lodmoor: 28 August 1978
Lodmoor: 25 May - 16 August 1990
Stanpit: 8 - 11 September 1996
Stanpit: 23 May 2001
Reap Lane, Portland: 20 May 2011

I really wish I had worked out it's significance of the Wagtail when I saw it. However, the only consolation was few birders were going to worry about a rare Yellow Wagtail subspecies, with a potential Short-toed Eagle about 12 miles away. But the news from Paul wasn't sounding good: the bird had flown off & been lost from sight. Given it had gone I carried on walking back to the car fairly fast, but was now stopping for interesting things again, while I was awaiting some photos to be sent. It turns out Paul was on his way with the photos to Shaun's house (as he was unable to send the photos out by phone).
Blackbird: Female
Blackbird: Successful local breeding confirmed
Green-veined White: Easily overlooked in flight for one of the commoner Whites, but distinctive when seen feeding
Now back at the car, I received an update from Paul & a perched photo of a Short-toed Eagle. Bloody hell. A great find for a good mate & a hard local Poole Harbour watcher. Paul's write up of the day & his better photos are on the Birds of Poole Harbour website. Congrats again Paul. The update to the news when it flew East it appeared to be going in the direction of Poole Harbour. But this was an hour old news. Still there was a very slim chance it won't be entering New Forest airspace by this stage. So I quickly headed to a prominent viewpoint on Hartland Heath & started looking. But after 2 hours & with no news from any of the other locals, then it was clear it had left the area. Back home for some very late lunch. I had just finished when the pager mega alerted again to say it had been seen flying East over Morden Bog again, but again an hour old news. There was no indication of who the observer was, as nothing on the local email or grape vine, but time to head out again. Luckily for my mate Peter Moore, he had been looking at Puffins at Dancing Ledge near my village with family & friends, & had just returned to the cars when the mega alert went. He checked with the boss if it was OK to go with me, but I suspect he was long out of ear-shot by the time Claire has answered. Soon we were racing North again to Morden Bog & decided on a viewpoint along with my mate Andy Mears from Bristol & Nick Hopper & his Claire, at the Southern end, so the light would be behind us. No joy in the 20 minutes we were there, until my phone rang from George Green at the Northern end of Morden Bog to say he was watching the bird. We were the first to arrive being so close & fortunately it was still sitting in the tree a couple of hundred metres away.
Short-toed Eagle: There are better photos on Peter Moore's blog when he returned the following day on the excuse of going out for some exercise on his bicycle
The crowd shot about 90 minutes after we arrived
Whilst getting some crap record shots, I started ringing everybody I knew to get the news out & get people to our viewpoint. The last thing anybody wanted was people going all over the heath as that might flush the bird. In the end about 200 or so birders got to see it by the time I left about 21:00 & all were well behaved & kept well back: except for one selfish rogue local photographer who felt it necessary to get really close. It's clearly more important for him to get good photos (despite a good flight shot from the morning), than it is to behave & consider other birders, so everybody coming for the bird can see it. In the end, the bird didn't flush, despite what must have been a very close approach, but it's only possible for him to be cocky in hindsight. This isn't the first time he has got too close to Raptors, as can clearly be seen from photos he has posted in the past. Note, I've removed the links to his blog as I'm not prepared to give him any passing traffic from my blog. I hope other local birders will do the same on their blogs.

30 May 2014

29 May 14 - Historical Re-enactment: The Third Arctic Expedition Of James Ross

Living close to Corfe Castle, it's not unusual to see historical re-enactment societies appearing for a few days there, to tell the story of a historical period in English history, especially the English Civil War. The societies will appear for a few days, usually around a public or school holiday & try to inform the public about daily life & food in that period whilst dressed in the typical clothing & often with a bit of staged fighting thrown in. They seem to have a lot of fun with the re-enactment & so I felt it was a good opportunity to try my own re-enactment of one of the many expeditions to find the North West Passage. The North West Passage is the long hoped for route to the North of Canada, as a route to the Great Western seas (Pacific Ocean) without having to sail around Cape Horn: which was the only very dangerous alternative in those days. In 1829, James Clark Ross was on his third Arctic expedition as the scientific officer on William Parry's expedition to discover the North West Passage. The expedition didn't return until 1834. Given the timescales (one of my crew had to be back to see his sons before they went to bed) & the costs of a full re-enactment, I was settling for finding a sea route South leading to the Great Western seas (settling for the Exe estuary leading to the Atlantic Ocean) as we couldn't be away for 4.5 years.
Grey Heron: Ross might well have seen a Great Blue Heron on one of his Canadian expeditions (thanks to this Grey Heron for stepping in to play the part of the Great Blue Heron)
Like Ross, I set off to the North & West. After a gruelling journey of literally 15 minutes, I stopped at the final friendly port of Wareham, stopping close to the quayside to collect the all-essential navigator, Peter Moore. With the final provisions loaded (Peter's packed lunch) and extra scientific equipment safely stowed (camera, telescope, tripod and wet weather gear as the forecast was for rain), we were ready to depart again. The course was set again to the North & West, before heading on a more Westerly bearing. Like Ross & Parry, we were optimistic we would find the channel of water South, which would lead to the Great Western sea. Finally after a long journey of well over an hour, we reached the start of the passageway to the South (the Exe estuary). We followed it, excited that our goal was close. But the route got narrower and narrower until finally, our transportation could go no further. Having got so close, we decided we had to continue on foot to look for a viewpoint, to see if we have found the fabled route to the Great Western sea.
Canada Goose: Ross would have been familiar with this species from his expeditions
Barnacle Goose: Again a species Ross would have seen so this single bird also helping with the historical accuracy
Back to Parry & Ross's expedition. They found only impenetrable ice, we found impenetrable mud. Like Parry & Ross, at the last moment, our expedition had failed and we would have to return home, having got so close, but failing to find the North & West route that lead to the Great Western sea.
The impenetrable mud that defeated our quest: The Ross's Gull is directly above the post in the mud (honestly)
But in a final attempt to emulate Ross's third expedition, we seized the moment and looked at the Gulls. A cry from Peter went up, look at that small Gull. Followed by the noise of shooting in the purposes of science (only from his camera, Ross's expedition only had to make do with guns). There it was a Ross's Gull, shot in digital: the final tribute. Ross had shot the first specimen for science: we had shot the first specimen for the Exe estuary. You couldn't get a better or closer re-enactment.

Ross's Gull: 1st Summer. Slightly larger than a Little Gull, but with a white head & variable collar from the nape to the throat. But they don't have the smudgy grey crown & large ear coverts spot of 1st Summer Little Gulls
Ross's Gull: We returned to Bowling Green Marsh in late afternoon, where I picked it up flying into the roost. In flight, Ross's Gull have longer wings that Little Gulls, which are exaggerated by the broad white trailing edge to the wing on the inner primaries & outer secondaries (Little Gulls have a dark wing bar on the secondaries). They also have a dark tipped diamond shaped tail (Little Gulls tails are notched) 
Ross's Gull: Showing the extend of translucency in the wing & how it gives it a longer, narrower wing shape
Like Ross, we still had to return home safely to complete the scientific publications. By this stage, food on the return journey was limited. Fortunately with the knowledge from earlier Western expeditions, we successfully refound a chippie (in Honiton). Unfortunately for Peter, Seal burgers weren't on the menu that evening, so he had to settle for the next most appropriate option: fish. Being vegetarian I skipped the fish as well. Safely home, the scientific observations are now all written up (here & in the prestigious Journal of Moore Birds). Sadly, in the case of Ross's Gull, it was first mentioned in print by Willian McGillivray, a zoological assistant at the Edinburgh University museum, who named it Rhodostethia rosea. Dr John Richardson who was tasked to describe all the species Ross collected on the expedition, named it as Larus rossii. But as with the general scientific principles, the first published scientific name is the one that sticks. However, to recognise Ross's contribution, the English name Ross's Gull was adopted after Richardson's publication as part of Parry's overall documentation of the expedition. As with all explorers, Ross went on to become involved in further exploration of both the Arctic & Antarctic, before living quietly in his latter years. Perhaps he also reminisced about his first expedition in 1818 when he served as a midshipsman on his uncle's Arctic expedition. On this he worked closely with Captain Edward Sabine, who had Sabine's Gull named after him. He came out of retirement, to lead another expedition North in 1848 to try to discover what happened to the ill-fated final expedition of Sir John Franklin, who Franklin's Gull is named after. He returned, having failed in the main quest on the fate of Franklin: an early case of extreme dipping. I will start fund raising now for future re-enactments of other historical expeditions.

26 May 2014

26 May 14 - Photospot3: Indian Phylloscopus Warblers

A few days ago, I received a call from an English expat who is currently living & working in Delhi, but who was over in the UK on holiday. Clare is a regular follower of the blog & had asked for me to pull together all of my Phylloscopus Warbler (Leaf Warblers) photos from India into a single blog post. So here goes. 
Greenish Warbler: Jungle Hut, Western Ghats, India (28 Dec 13)
Phylloscopus Warblers are not the easiest of species to figure out, especially when faced with 29 species shown in the Rasmussen field guide. Some are widespread & fairly common (at least in some parts of Subcontinent), whereas a few are scarce or very local in their distribution. Generally, they are a group of Warblers with greenish or brownish upperparts & paler underparts, an eye stripe & maybe 1 or 2 wingbars or a crown stripe or bright coloured rump or some combination of these features. Most are fairly active & move around a lot, often high up, but with a few which typically like to skulk low down. It doesn't help that a number are Winter visitors to the Subcontinent & thus are often silent or give a fairly non-descript call (which often to the untrained ears sounds similar to others in the group). Even those that are singing, aren't much help to a visiting birder, unless you've spent a lot of time listening to songs or at least have made the attempt to have a full range of species to listen to when abroad. Despite having done a lot of sound recording in South East Asia in the past, I didn't have many recordings with me on this trip & having recently changed my sound gear to something electronic (from my old reliable TCM 5000EV cassette tape recorder), I wasn't happy with the new set up & was rarely bothering to take the sound gear into the field with me. Therefore, I've not covered calls & songs in this post, which is a significant oversight, but I'll leave the reader to explore them on Xeno-Canto, as listening to them will give a better understanding than I could describe in words.
Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler: Look for the presence of wingbars as this is often a good starting point to trying to figure out the current Phyllos you're watching. Bharatpur, Rajastan, India (27 Jan 14) 
Due to the subdued colours & problems on some occasions of trying to get good enough views to figure out the species, it's not surprising that many people will give up & look at something more colourful, easier to identify & more interesting to look at. This isn't helped by some species appearing to look different as the lighting changes or birds with wingbars start to loose them due to wear. Crown stripes are also a potential problem as they can be tricky to see on a rapidly moving Warbler. All that said, like a lot of keen Brit Birders, I quite enjoyed looking at the Phyllos Warblers as we get plenty of practice in the Autumn in the hope of finding a rarity or a sub-rarity on our local patch. The trick is getting your eye in on the common ones in the area & getting to know them well enough that you pick out something more interesting. Secondly, it's helpful to have a good idea of the species that are likely to be in your part of the Subcontinent, as mercifully only a small number are likely to be found in any area. While that doesn't stop rarer Warblers turning up out of range (which isn't going to be that unusual for the migrant species), then start with the likely species first. Then when you think you have the identification, it's worth a check if there are others that look similar that could also occur as rarities, so you can eliminate those as well. Right introduction over, guess I had better switch to some photos.

The first species is Chiffchaff which is also known as Siberian Chiffchaff. The regular subspecies in the Subcontinent is tristis. They are greyer & colder than the regular Chiffchaffs that breed in the UK & don't have the typical olive tones of our birds. However, I guess a number of European birders have seen tristis in Europe as scarce winter visitors & will have some familiarity with them (& birders who live in the Subcontinent won't have to worry about what European Chiffys look like anyway). As I've only got one photo of a Siberian Chiffchaff, then I would suggest you have a look at Peter Moore's Siberian Chiffchaff Photos from Dorset in Feb 2014 or Marcus Lawson's Siberian Chiffchaff Photos (who actually found these birds). [Right that's the plugs for my mate's blogs done!!! - I'll carry on for those of you who aren't bored or distracted by their photos]. Peter & Marcus have also done the decent thing & put a better set of photos & details together on their identification which is basically a drab greyish or grey-brown Phyllos Warbler, without any obvious olive tones (apart from around the alula), off whitish underparts, black bill & legs. They may show a faint single wingbar. This is a species that could be encountered anywhere in the Northern part of the Subcontinent in the Winter.
Chiffchaff: A uninspiring photo of a Siberian Chiffchaff  in the late afternoon sun, but it shows the drab colours, hint of a wingbar & black legs. Photographed in a small wetland pool & reeds, South of Bhuj, Gujarat, India (18 Jan 14)
Moving onto Tickell's Warbler. This is a species that is worth getting to know well as it's one of the commoner reference species & it occurs across most of the Subcontinent, except for the North West (either as a resident or migrant species). It is a plain Phyllos with yellow underparts and a yellow supercilium. It has no wingbars, crown stripes or bright rump.
Tickell's Warbler: Note, the strong yellow colouration to the underparts, supercilium & lack of wingbars. Ooty, Western Ghats, India (31 Dec 13)
Tickell's Warbler: Munnar, Western Ghats, India (4 Jan 14)
One of the best Phyllos Warblers I saw in India is Sulphur-bellied Warbler. This is perhaps one of the easier to pick out based upon their preference of feeding on the ground for a lot of the time. This winters in Central India, but Mount Abu in Rajasthan is within its wintering range. It breeds in the very North West of the Subcontinent & in neighbouring countries & I guess above the tree line, given its preference for ground feeding.

Sulphur-bellied Warbler: This has drab greyish-brown upperparts, pale yellowish underparts & a strong yellow supercilium, especially in front of the eye. Mt Abu, Rajasthan, India (22 Jan 14)
Sulphur-bellied Warbler: Note, the plain colouration & lack of wingbars or bright rump. Another shot of it ground feeding preference. Mt Abu, Rajasthan, India (22 Jan 14)
 Sulphur-bellied Warbler: Note, the lack of a crown stripe. Feeding in low vegetation this time. Mt Abu, Rajasthan, India (22 Jan 14)
The next species is Brook's Warbler. The main features are it is a small Phyllos Warbler with pale olive colouration, a pale yellowish-olive crown stripe, a yellowish supercilium, yellow at the base of the lower mandible, 2 pale wingbars and a yellowish rump. It has a distinctive monosyllabic call which is well worth listening to on a web site like Xeno-Canto & better still down loading to your mobile so you can compare it in the field. It's not a common species, but one which you might bump into somewhere like Bharatpur or Sultanpur.
Brook's Warbler: One of the things I noticed is the yellowish features seem to almost merge into the overall olive colouration , compared to a Yellow-browed Warbler or Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler, which generally have clear-cut edges. The second wingbar is faint on this individual, but you can see the supercilium, hints of the crown stripe, the wingbars & the bill colouration. Additionally, the overall colouration with the paler olive underparts. All photos are of the same individual (but one seen at Sultanpur looked & sounded very similar). It was photographed in late afternoon light at Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India (27 Jan 14)
Brook's Warbler: Showing the crown stripe. Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India (27 Jan 14)
Brook's Warbler: I can just make out the side of the crown stripe on this photo. Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India (27 Jan 14)
Brook's Warbler: The second wingbar on this individual is very faint. Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India (27 Jan 14)
Brook's Warbler: Showing the pale yellow base to the lower mandible. Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India (27 Jan 14)
When I first visited India in 1991, there were several subspecies of Yellow-browed Warbler. These days they are now split into the monotypic Yellow-browed Warbler & Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler (comprising the humei & mandellii subspecies) with some authorities splitting off mandellii as a third species. This is a small compact Phyllos Warbler with a short tail. They are typically fairly bright above with 2 clear cut lemon yellow wingbars, an obvious pale lemon supercilium, large yellowish-white tertial tips and pale greyish-white underparts. They may show a faint crown stripe. They have pale legs and a pale lower mandible. Typically, they move around a lot compared to some of the Phyllos, but don't have the hyperactivity, brightness or bright yellow rumps of the Pallas's Warbler group. Yellow-browed Warblers are winter visitors to the North East & the Andamans.
Yellow-browed Warbler: Abbotsbury, UK (4 Nov 13)
The similar humei subspecies of Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler is a Winter visitor to most of North & Central India, except the far North West & North East. Like the Yellow-browed Warbler, it is a small Phyllos, but It is drabber with less clear cut buff 2 or 1 wingbars (the upper one often wears off), a strong buffy-yellow supercilium, dark legs & bill.

Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler: This individual has a fairly strong second wingbar & a similar strong supercilium like a Yellow-browed Warbler. Mt Abu, Rajastan, India (22 Jan 14)
Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler: Bharatpur, Rajastan, India (27 Jan 14)
Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler: Notice the worn second wingbar on this bird which was photographed in late afternoon light at Bharatpur, Rajastan, India (27 Jan 14) 
Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler: A worn late Winter individual (& a bit over exposed), Dungeness, UK (8 March 14)
Another common Indian species is Greenish Warbler which is a Winter or migrant visitor to most of the Subcontinent. Its a dull olive colour with a strong yellowish supercilium & a single wingbar (which can wear off) & pale yellowish-white underparts, greyish legs & a pale orangey lower mandible.
Greenish Warbler: Showing the remains of a pale wingbar, yellowish supercilium & orangey lower mandible. Jungle Hut, Western Ghats, India (28 Dec 13)
Greenish Warbler: The wingbar has worn of this individual. Ooty, Western Ghats, India (30 Dec 13)
Greenish Warbler: Ooty, Western Ghats, India (30 Dec 13)
Tytler's Warbler is a distinctively scarce species & we only saw 2 or 3 individuals. Fortunately, the ones were saw gave good views, allowing us to be confident on the identification as it was a species neither Brian or I had seen before. This is a Wintor visitor to the Western Ghats, which breeds in the extreme North West of the Subcontinent. It is a small & drab Phyllos Warbler with a long whitish supercilium and dark eye stripe, a fine black bill & no wingbars, crown stripes or pale rump patch.
Tytler's Warbler: Note, the drab colouration and long white supercilium. Munnar, Western Ghats, India (4 Jan 14)
The final Phyllos Warbler I've managed to photograph is Western Crowned Warbler. This is one of the larger & stouter Phyllos Warblers I saw, but in reality it's only 0.5 cm longer than a Greenish Warbler. It has a brighter greenish wash to the upperparts, greyish-grey crown, a single weak wingbar, a strong yellow supercilium & clean underparts. This is a winter or passage visitor to Southern India & breeds on the far North West of the Subcontinent. The main confusion species is probably Blyth's Crowned Warbler, which occurs in the North East part of the Subcontinent, where a migrant Western Crowned Warbler might overlap on migration.
Western Crowned Warbler: This shows the bulk of the bird, the strong supercilium, the orangey bill & the clean underparts. Jungle Hut, Western Ghats, India (29 Dec 13)
Western Crowned Warbler: Showing the single wingbar. This is the same individual as the previous individual & just shows why prolonged views of some of these species is needed, as the wingbar isn't that obvious on the previous photo (perhaps more worn on its left wing). Jungle Hut, Western Ghats, India (29 Dec 13)
I did manage to see one Green Warbler & a couple of Long-billed Warblers on my trip, but failed to get any shots of them. Therefore, as I have a strong objection to copyright piracy by publishing other people's photos, I will leave these 2 species out of this post. Perhaps it's something I will be able to come back to in the future, especially as there are another 20 or so species I've not covered. I am planning to return to bird North East India next Spring & so hopefully, there will be enough opportunity to get photos of a number of the Phyllos Warblers which winter in that area. I think either of the current Indian field guides (Rasmussen or Inskipp) are fairly reasonable for illustrations & text for these species. However, they haven't got the space to show the variations of fresh autumnal plumages of birds that were born that year, or worn adults at the end of a breeding season or how either of these birds will look later in the Winter. Therefore, I found the best way of really getting to know some of these species was to look at the extensive photos on the Oriental Bird Club Images web site. This is really one of the best ways I found to prepare for some of the Phyllos Warblers I was expecting to see at the next site or to check some of the birds I had just seen. Fortunately, there are a number of images & locations & there will generally be a few photos at the right time of year & your part of the Subcontinent for most species (including their confusion species).

Finally. I have already put together a couple of Photospot posts together (The Lesser Whitethroat Complex and Desert Warblers) & posts of groups of similar species (Indian Owl Fest (pure indulgence) and Indian Mammals Fest). I've also got plans for a few other similar posts to come in the future. However, if any of the regular readers of the blog have suggestions for other posts on particular subjects they would like to see, then please get in touch with your suggestions, why you want to see it & leave me your email address. You can do this by putting a Comment on the blog. I get to see all Comments before they are published & therefore it is the easiest way to get in touch. Where it's an idea for a future post, your Comment will probably not get published, but will be acknowledged in that future post. However, I can't guarantee that I will put the post together as requested, as it will depend on what other posts I'm working on, whether I've got enough material to make it work at that point in time, whether I've got the time to work on the post, whether it would be better to do in the future (because I know I will have more photos after a future trip) & perhaps most importantly because I like or don't like the idea. What ever happens I'll respond by email with my thoughts. Right that should be enough excuses to cover all possibilities.