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Mon 29th March 2010

Posted on March 29, 2010 at 4:55 PM

birds : Unlike most people, I tend to have less time to get out and see birds at the weekend rather than during the week. Monday to Friday, I can pop to places to or from work, or during the lunch break, but at weekends I am playing footie or I'm with the kids or I'm doing housework (yeah, right! says Rosie) etc. So the weekend brought island sightings of Stone Curlew, Red-necked Grebe, a new Richard's Pipit and the return of the Pacific Diver - and I saw none of them - and managed an hour in the field Sunday afternoon, at low low low tide and the rain pouring. Not so good. . .

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Today was much better though - the first proper day of the Easter holidays. This morning the sun was shining and so Abigail, Aidan and I circumnavigated the Reservoir. The Chiffchaffs had come in in numbers with at least 10 birds singing round the lake, and the Little Grebes were whinneying manically and showing rather splendidly. Nothing uncommmon though, but there was a Slav Grebe in Perelle as we ate our Opal Fruits (well I ate my Opal Fruits, they ate their Starbursts).

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Guernsey Dafs out in force

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Following the countryside code, Abigail keeps control of her dog, which leaves Aidan to do the sheep-worrying instead

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Mid-afternoon, I managed to get out for another hour or so but it seemed quiet in the far NE of the island. So I called in at Marais Nord and soon saw that there were plenty of Chiffchaffs along the back path - at least 10 in the small area of flooded trees and reeds. Quite soon I discovered my first Willow Warbler of the year feeding with them and then I glimpsed a very brown Chiffchaff feeding low down. Straight away it was interesting, as it was plain brown above and dull white below and there was no green on it at all, and there was a clear pale supercilium, and the bill seemed all black, and I thought that it stood a chance for a Siberian Chiffchaff, race 'tristis'. The identification of this taxa is a minefield and any previous possibles I've seen, have never called. But this one did - and it sounded good. It was definitely different to all the other Chiffchaffs calling all around - a shorter, higher pitched, single monosyllabic note. It wasn't as soft and subtle a call as I would expect from a tristis, but did have the right pattern to it, and it repeated this a number of times. But then it changed and started making a call I'd never heard from a Chiffchaff before - a sort of "che-wee" and very disyllbic compared to the usual "houeet" - and again it repeated this. Unfortunately I had to collect Anais and so had to leave somewhat confused.

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Researching this evening and listening to calls on the internet, I found that:

Among documented 'alternative' calls, perhaps the most frequent reference is to a downward-inflected and disyllabic 'sweeoo'. This type of call has been associated with 'eastern abietinus'

which may be the disyllabic call I heard. And the tristis-type calls I heard do match pretty well some of the tristis calls on the internet.

So it seems that (probably) it was either a tristis Chiffchaff or a very easterly abietinus Chiffchaff, so hopefully I can get back there soon to investigate it further.

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nonsense : Abigail's artwork has moved into sculpture and produced this piece today entitled . . .

"Aidan in the toilet"

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There he is down at the bottom disappearing down the pan, and she is at the top rolling around in laughter at his fate. 

Categories: 2010 Spring