Blyth’s Reed Warbler – Hope Carr NR – January 2019

On Sunday 20th January 2019 at around 11am I got a phone call from my friend Phil Rhodes who informed me he had found a Reed Warbler or Blyth’s Reed Warbler at Hope Carr NR near Leigh. As I was doing my WeBS count in Bolton it wasn’t until nearly 1pm by the time I got to the site. Phil was still there watching the bird in a bramble patch by the perimeter fence adjacent to the filtration beds. Andy Makin had also arrived and the bird continued to show well on what was a very mild, calm day with sunny intervals. After a further hour or so watching the bird we had convinced ourselves that it was most likely a Reed Warbler, which in itself would be an amazing record for Greater Manchester in the middle of January!


We heard the bird call on several occasions and to the human ear it was difficult to say whether it was any different to a Reed Warbler. The colouration and behaviour / posture of the bird seemed to fit Reed Warbler even though the primaries did seem slightly short. Separation of Reed and Blyth’s Reed Warbler can be very difficult in the field and even the field guide features can be open to interpretation. 

Later that evening having posted photos of the bird on Twitter I was contacted by Chris Batty at Rare Bird Alert who felt confident from the photos that the bird was in fact a Blyth’s Reed Warbler! Luckily one of the photos showed a short P2 (primary tips number from 1-10), which could be seen to be much shorter than P3 and P4 (which form the wing tips). In Reed Warbler P2 should equal P4. An emargination on P4, which our bird had, is also a strong indicator of Blyth’s Reed Warbler as this is rare in Reed Warbler. 


In the field we noticed the bird had a pale wing panel and it is thought this is because the bird had not yet completed its first year moult and has yet to replace any of its secondary feathers.

Luckily Andy had captured the bird calling several times on video which Chris Batty converted to a .wav file. The call was compared with a random Blyth’s Reed Warbler cut and Reed Warbler from xeno-canto (an online bird call and song resource) and the differences were obvious. 


The sonogram above shows the Hope Carr warbler (top) a perfect match with Blyth’s Reed Warbler (middle) and whereas Reed Warbler (bottom) is a more drawn out “trrk” call. The Blyth’s call is slightly shorter “tic” type call similar to a Lesser Whitethroat. The call confirmed that the bird was no doubt a Blyth’s Reed Warbler which would be rare anywhere in Western Europe during winter never mind at an inland site near Leigh. The bird should be in India at this time of year.

Phil said he had heard briefly what he thought could have been a Lesser Whitethroat call in that area in December so it is likely the bird could have present over a month. Thankfully after a few days of cold and foggy weather, many birders were able to see the bird well and in fact on Monday 28th January it showed very well indeed when these photos were taken by Dave Shallcross, Gary Crowder and John Preston.  An amazing first ever record for Greater Manchester.


Simon Warford

Rare Warbler Turns Up In Leigh

A rare Blyth's Reed Warbler was found by Phil Rhodes at Hope Carr Nature Reserve / Sewage Works in Leigh last week (yes, birders really do get to some picturesque places don't they?).

I'm told that this is the first time ever that one has been seen in Greater Manchester and that less than 10 a year are seen in the UK as a whole.  I myself have been three times to find this bird and spent about nine hours of waiting with just a Chiffchaff, Wren and a few Linnets and  Pied Wagtails being seen.  The reason for the title is that the bird is a very active skulker in  the brambles and never appears out in the open for long.

The photo below shows the bird feeding on a spider's egg sacks and was taken by our chairman David Shallcross on one of its rare appearances. It was featured in this week's Rare Bird Alert weekly roundup.

I am trying to get the original finder to write a brief report on how he found it, how it was first thought to be a Reed Warbler and how the story progressed to its final determination of being a Blyth's Reed Warbler - so watch this space.

UPDATE:
I've seen it now!  Photos and report on my own blog: www.gt-birding-scrapbook.blogspot.com

L.O.S. Annual Reports and Newsletters Updated

I have finally got round to updating the Society's bi-monthly and annual reports on our main website. These are in PDF format and are free for anyone to read, download and print with the exception that the latest newsletters are only available to members in the first instance. As a special 'one-time only' incentive to encourage readers, the January 2019 newsletter is available now.

In the fullness of time, they all eventually become available in the public domain. Click the link below to go to the page where they are linked and please let me know if you can't open them or if there are any other problems with the links.

http://www.leighos.org.uk/p/reports.html

L.O.S. Fieldtrip to Leighton Moss RSPB - Sunday 13th January 2019

A RATHER BLUSTERY DAY

This was our fifth trip of the season with a new twist as we made it a 'decide on the day' for where to take our adventure and, as I waited for our troops to gather, a song entered my head - this one from the 'Adventures of Winnie the Pooh':
Oh, the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily
So it's rather safe to say

That it seems that it may turn out to be
It feels that it will undoubtedly
It looks like a rather blustery day, today
It seems that it may turn out to be
Feels that it will undoubtedly
Looks like a rather blustery day, today. 


Watch it here on YouTube:

After a short discussion, the hardy souls decided that somewhere with some form of cover to protect us from the weather would be the safe option. So Leighton Moss RSPB seemed ideal.


Warton Crag would be our first stop with views of Raven and Peregrine Falcon hopefully.

On arrival not a bird to be seen. Fortunately we didn't have to wait to long as a flock of Jackdaws some 200 strong returned to the Crag to entertain us with wonderful aerial displays as we continued to search the rock face in search of our goal.


Then the eagle eyed Peter Hodson picked up a Peregrine and it's mate at the far left hand end of the Crag. Unfortunately no Ravens. But a little blip like this would not put our hardy birders off.
So feeling a little more upbeat, although a little windswept, off to Allen and Morecambe Hides just a short journey away.

The Allen Hide produced a strong gathering of 200 plus Black-tailed Godwits and similar numbers of Lapwings, a smattering of Dunlin, and a pair of Shelduck

So onward to the Morecambe Hide. Here we saw Wigeon, Redshank, Pintail, Greylag Geese, a single Kestrel, and two Knot plus many more Lapwings. There had been a Greenshank reported so we set about scouring the satellite islands. Then the rain and wind came with gusto. I'm sure I heard one of our troops singing 'Bring Me Sunshine', after all we were in the Morecambe Hide. Luckily for us, two Greylags forced the Greenshank from its shelter on the leeward side of one of the islands, which gave us good views.

The rain went as quickly as it came, so it was time to head for the main Leighton Moss reserve. After a short break, a bite to eat, and some warming expensive coffee, it was time to go in search of the Great Grey Shrike which had been reported earlier that day.

A quick visit to the Causeway Hide on our way to the Lower Hide. A single Dabchick, the usual Cormorants, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Teal and Pintail plus a few Mallards.

On the way to the Lower Hide a very tame group of Titmice greeted us in search of seed. Blue Tits, Great Tits, a couple of Coal Tits and a favourite of mine a single Marsh Tit. I even tricked a Great Tit to sit on my hand pretending to have a palm full of seed.

On reaching the Lower Hide area, we searched for a good 30 minutes for the Great Grey Shrike, but alas we dipped. But it was well worth a try. The hide itself produced two Great White Egrets, so all was not lost.


Last port of call would be Lillian Hide. At the entrance to the hide high up in the Alder trees were a handful of Siskin. From within the hide all the usual birds and 8 Snipe, one of which was out in the open right in front of the hide).


45 species were recorded from a big effort by everyone. The weather became kinder as the day wore on, so it was worth the effort.  Well done to all who attende
d and hope to see you all on the February Trip.

Thank you for you company, as usual a great day.
Paul Pennington
L.O.S. Fieldtrips Officer

National Willow Tit Survey 2019-20

Willow Tit at Pennington Flash (c) Martyn Jones
Do you see Willow Tits on your local patch? Here in western Greater Manchester they are uncommon, but not really difficult to see, with their distinctive call, and they do come readily to bird feeders. But they are absent from most parts of the country, and are the second-fastest declining species in the UK, lost in large parts of southern and eastern England. Needless to say, they are Red-listed.

The RSPB in conjunction with the Rare Breeding Birds Panel are organising a national survey 2019-20, with Simon Wotton, simon.wotton@rspb.org.uk at the RSPB being the contact.


You can ask for the tetrad (2km x 2km OS square) into which your local patch falls, and all that is required is the checking of suitable habitats in that square twice between mid February and mid April, playing a recording, which is supplied, every 200m. Full directions, a map and the recording are supplied. For those not quite up to speed with new technology, you can now download the records to a smart phone.

A PDF form to record the Willow Tits called “WT Survey Form 2019-2020” and a PDF entitled “WT Survey methods Information Sheet” can be obtained from Joan Disley - please either ask or email leighos.editor@gmail.com for these forms.

Judith Smith