Friday, 28 October 2011

Siberian Chiffchaff

Beautiful sunny warm day

Started with a seawatch at Cley with Mark Golley - 5 Pom Skuas (7 seen in total today between Cley and the Point) a few Bonxies and lots of Little Gulls lingering and moving through - over 150 counted between Cley and the far Point area.

With the possibility of either a Pallas's or Richard's Pipit around in light N to E winds I headed up the Point in glorious weather

A few Rock Pipits around and lots of Skylark moving West. Imm Shag on the sea was a long awaited year tick! plus a few Guillemots and Razorbills around

I then found a Phyllosc near the Hood - It appeared quite pale and frosty coloured. It called and I knew it was no Collybita! It had a piping , monotone , deep call .. and different from 'normal' Chiffs

Amazingly the bird then sat in a bush just 15-20 feet away and I even managed to get a shot through the binoculars using my phone!

The defining features were

Warm brown cheek and no yellow in plumage
Frosty pale below with just warm flanks
Green only in wings
mantle grey brown and eye looked really beady, almost Bonelli's like face
Bill dark with just pale around cutting edges
Legs dark but toes appeared paler than rest of legs - This is the only feature which didn't fit as I thought they are meant to be jet black legs and feet?

On the whole - coupled with the call - a pretty good candidate for tristis - I put the news on Birdguides as this rather than possible or probable - a bit foolish maybe , but looked good enough to me!

R Porter managed to see it too a few hours later and he also got some shots. In the brighter light later in the afternoon it looked much paler .. but the warm tones and call that it showed earlier still make me think it was a Sibe Chiff

I have previously seen one bird that wintered (with an abietinus type) at the Brent Res many years ago .. and the odd possible bird on Scillies .. but this was the first time I have seen one in Norfolk

Photos below:


  1. Amazing phone-binning skills Mr B!

  2. Yeah, top Apple phone photography. There's got to be an app out soon for phone scoping surely.

    Your bird sounds very similar to the one that I saw in Flycatcher Alley In Lowestoft on 23rd October. The bird I saw had whitish underparts, greenish tones on the primaries and tail feathers and a cold brown mantle and head. Unfortunately, my bird didn't call. The problem was that it had been heard calling by other birders who recalled that it had both 'tristis' and 'collybitta' type calls!

  3. What did this bird call like Sacha? It sounds from the description of grey-brown uppers and frosty white unders, and especially the Bonelli's-like comment with beady eye and green wing fringing, to be more akin to one of the grey-white type chiffs that are currently a talking point as to where they are from and what they are. Doesn't sound a typical brown-buff tristis-type to me. Maybe these Bonelli's resembling birds are even rarer, as I've only seen one, compared to three tristis!

  4. sorry, I didn't read the post where you described the call. I'm thick, sorry! Intriguing indeed,

  5. Hi Steve,
    The call was perfect for tristis, even if it did just call once. The photos above where taken in strong sunlight so look a bit washed out but the warm tones to cheek were distinctive in the field.
    I have only seen tristis a few times along with abietinus 'type' wintering birds and am aware of varying forms that do apparently occur annually on the Point. I am sure of the ID of this bird mainly due to the call.. Although I have heard that mixed call birds can also occur? This was my only interesting find of the Autumn.. But will look at all late Autumn birds with much closer interest from now on.