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Some Notes on the Identity of (Autumn) Marsh Warbler (1 Viewer)

Britseye

Well-known member
The attached Word document was written for publication in last year's Isles of Scilly bird report to answer questions about some of the Marsh Warblers we had been seeing on St Agnes over the previous ten Octobers. Our mild-mannered, diplomatic, gentleman Recorder and Bird Report editor decided it was 'too controversial' and decided to leave it out, leaving certain questions still hanging. Now that I've managed to persuade the Scilly Local Rarities Committee to come round to my way of thinking and the 'controversial' bird has been unanimously accepted as a Marsh Warbler, I thought it might be of some benefit to other birders to see the notes attached. Due to resizing issues, I've had to upload the pictures separately.
 

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Simon Wates

Well-known member
Thanks so much, enlightening and refreshing.

I liked very much, and I quote; "One discernible feature of the original St Agnes Marsh 2009 was a 'jowled' look, vaguely reminiscent of a Cattle Egret! I was quite shocked to discover affirmation of this apparent feature in a letter to British Birds 1965 (BB 58:11 p474) " Nice one :t:

Surprisingly, Marsh Warbler is not yet reliably recorded in Portugal, though they must come through - at least a few so I hope you don't mind if I post your thread here on BF to a Portuguese spot about rare birds? I'm sure a few folk would be grateful for your perspective.
 

Britseye

Well-known member
Thanks so much, enlightening and refreshing.

I liked very much, and I quote; "One discernible feature of the original St Agnes Marsh 2009 was a 'jowled' look, vaguely reminiscent of a Cattle Egret! I was quite shocked to discover affirmation of this apparent feature in a letter to British Birds 1965 (BB 58:11 p474) " Nice one :t:

Surprisingly, Marsh Warbler is not yet reliably recorded in Portugal, though they must come through - at least a few so I hope you don't mind if I post your thread here on BF to a Portuguese spot about rare birds? I'm sure a few folk would be grateful for your perspective.

Thank you. Yes, of course, pass it on, That was the idea. :t:
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I also found this interesting and it called to mind an incident on Scilly a long time ago (I might be able to find a date via notebooks if it really matters).

I had just started making my way back towards Hughtown from Porth Hellick, late one cloudy afternoon, via the track to Salakee. A couple of birders called me by name - I am afraid distance in time has robbed me of theirs - as they thought they had a Melodious Warbler but someone else had begged leave to doubt the ID. I looked at the bird quite briefly, as I could feel the HSD calling, saw it was green and said "Yep, Melody". And off to the pub....

Next morning I happened by the same place, where it had been reidentified as a Marsh Warbler. One look was enough to show me it was an Acro and in brighter light it certainly looked less green though not really brown. It also showed me it was the previous night's bird - two bird theory was definitely not tenable! The same two birders were standing by their original ID and called me in support: sadly I had to confess that I had joined the opposing camp.

The new approach doesn't really suit my birding though I recognise it has merit in extremity and I am a fan of detail at bottom. Reed Warblers are warm brown, Blyth's Reed Warblers grey and Marsh Warblers greeney in soft light is fine by me. ;)

John
 

Britseye

Well-known member

Dave Boyle

Well-known member
I had a Marsh Warbler one November on Skomer, it stood out like a sore thumb & Reed Warbler never really entered my head but proving it is a whole lot harder!
 

Julian H

Well-known member
Good to read an objective/subjective approach to a conundrum I haven't experienced in a while. I've seen bird(s) near Porthellick that I was happy was a Marsh Warbler back in the day.

One bird I saw in Cornwall, on an October trip to Blighty, was a bird that was hanging out at Kenidjack Campground that was very "grey" in color and I remember it being a tough bird to id, with thoughts by others of "fuscus" Reed or Marsh Warbler (on account of it's pallid appearance). I think it was caught by Kester Wilson and proved to be a Reed Warbler.
 

halftwo

Wird Batcher
Entering the helgoland trap on Fair Is with the warden (or assistant?) back in '82, a bird flew around the space at the end.
As it did so the warden said, "Looks like a Marsh Warbler". On catching and observing in the hand, it proved to be the case.
I'm still impressed to this day!
 

Britseye

Well-known member
One bird I saw in Cornwall, on an October trip to Blighty, was a bird that was hanging out at Kenidjack Campground that was very "grey" in color and I remember it being a tough bird to id, with thoughts by others of "fuscus" Reed or Marsh Warbler (on account of it's pallid appearance). I think it was caught by Kester Wilson and proved to be a Reed Warbler.

Correct. Not that I saw it, but the controversy over that bird was part of the reason I went the extra mile to detail what all who saw the 2009 Marsh Warbler on St Agnes agreed was a pleasingly 'obvious' bird in so many respects. If you look at the final photo in the OP above, you can actually see green barbs in the mantle as well as pretty much unequivocal pale claws. Big clues. Didn't see either of those in photos of the Kelynack bird, as far as I recall.
 

Julian H

Well-known member
�� Kenidjack, Kelynack, Kester, lots of "K"s, "E"s and too many "Y"s in those names for my old brain!!
 

Julian H

Well-known member
I had forgotten I had talked about this in a forum. Nice write-up Mr. Small.

Do you have reference to that BB bird in light of Graham's thread above.
 

Britseye

Well-known member
Just for the record, Julian, here's a few pics of another Marsh Warbler we had on St Agnes late October 2015 (mentioned in the text above). Not quite so 'big-headed' as the 2009 bird, it did have a heavier bill; the green tone to the upperparts was quite pronounced in my early views of it, not so yellow below.
 

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Julian H

Well-known member
Graham,

I don't see any obvious greenish tones here...looks quite brown and buff in the images but on some of the images I can make out perhaps an olive tone... and I know judging tones of acros in life and in pix are tough.


It's got a wacking primary projection and yellowish feet but I think i would be struggling to identify this as Marsh without wing formulae from the images., etc.

I've no recent experience, so can you expound on why this isn't a Reed (claw color hard to make out..)?
 
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Britseye

Well-known member
Graham,

I don't see any obvious greenish tones here...looks quite brown and buff in the images but on some of the images I can make out perhaps an olive tone... and I know judging tones of acros in life and in pix are tough.


It's got a wacking primary projection and yellowish feet but I think i would be struggling to identify this as Marsh without wing formulae from the images., etc.

I've no recent experience, so can you expound on why this isn't a Reed (claw color hard to make out..)?

Not that it's here or there when it comes to an objective identity, but both the Marsh Warbler in the OP and these latest photos were found by people who were quite 'flabbergasted' when they first saw the individual in question - I doubt the person who found this latter bird is reading these pages, so I can say on his behalf 'Great Reed Warbler' was the first thing that came to mind on a brief view! So they were both instantly very striking. This one here showed a strong olive-green wash as soon as I saw it, and was always apparent against the red-brown bracken. (I don't know if you've seen Alan Dean's write-ups on Sibe Chiff in which he presents a rubic-cube that demonstrate some colours look different to the human brain depending on what colours surround it?). I didn't hear the bird calling, but others heard a tac-tac that they connected to a very vocal Marsh I'd missed the year before. Beyond that, you're looking at the familiarity gained from studying the 'original' Marsh Warbler 2009 and a dozen in spring on Fair Isle and the notes I presented regarding facial character, round crown, deep belly and (in this case) a rather massive bill. In other words, as has been the topic lately, there's a 'jizz' that can be learnt over time that can alert one to the need to pursue the matter further. Not that that helps in 2-D photos. :-C Again, neither here nor there, but the two Marsh Warblers described have turned up in habitat where not one of the 200 Reed Warblers I've seen on St Agnes have occurred.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
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