This is no Farmoor, Otmoor or Port Meadow. This is Grimsbury. It's Grim up north!

There is a running total year list in the link above.

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Sunday, 18 January 2015

18th Jan 2015: More on that Chiffchaff

A nice crisp winters morning today and when the sun came out it was quite pleasant. There are more and more signs that spring is on the way with many woody plants coming into bud and most of the Hazel trees have catkins out (although some still have leaves on). Grey Wagtail joined the dawn chorus today and look like a pair setting up territory.

The wood was quiet today, until the sun came out that is. The first time I went round there was very little activity and it was quite odd considering the activity that there has been recently. Only a singing Song Thrush broke the eerie silence. I did manage to find the Siberian and Common Chiffchaff (more on that later) but otherwise it was a bit dull to be honest.

I only had a quick look in the Upper Cherwell Valley today. I bumped into Clive Payne, who was doing the B.T.O. WeBS count, so I joined him for a short time. There was a Coot on the 'new pool' but we couldn't track down the Teal that were reported yesterday. Clive told me that a Peregrine has been seen over the U.C.V. in the last week. So that's two new species on the year list.

Back in the wood the sun had come out and along with it birds seemed to be feeding everywhere. The big Long-tailed Tit troop and it's associates were back out in force and we soon located the Willow Tit on call but didn't actually see it.

So, more on the Siberian Chiffchaff. Here is your chance to look away if you have already seen enough of it!

I spent a bit more time trying to photograph it today, still not entirely happy with the photos that I have so far (still not happy!). Stood in the almost silent wood early morning, I watched it foraging in a bramble bush on the railway embankment. Then it called! I haven't definitely heard it call before today. It called again and again, however it wasn't calling with the classic monosyllabic tristis 'peep', 'eep', 'ihp' or however you want to write it. It called with a upward inflected 'hweet', just like a Common collybita Chiffchaff.

I was rather disappointed as I had read the only way to definitely identify a tristis was on call. Mike Pollard had said last week that he heard it call like collybita but as we were stood with Roger Wyatt and he said tristis sometimes calls like collybita, I wasn't too worried.

So what does this mean? I text Ian Lewington and he said opinions on call are changing all the time and a Dutch tristis ID'd from DNA analysis called like a collybita. He encouraged me to listen to it more, saying there is more to learn. When I got home I searched for more information on this subject and there are several documented cases where Chiffchaffs that fit Siberian race on looks yet they call like Common (or Scandinavian abietinus) race.  It is not yet know if these birds are Siberian birds that call differently to what is expected or birds from where the races hybridise.

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