Saturday, January 31, 2015

A complex warbler

After a pretty productive morning on the patch, which had already produced only my second record of Grey-headed Lapwing (again a flyover) and the Lineated Barbet, I walked into "the secret garden", an area that is off limits to the public, but which has lots of big trees and good cover, and was where the "mystery Phyllosc" was photographed on 17th Jan (exactly two weeks ago).  Having drawn a blank on it when looking earlier in the week I had little hope of relocating it, but given that it was a Saturday I could allow time for a more exhaustive search.

Soon after entering the secret garden I found a ground-loving phyllosc which turned out to be a Radde's Warbler.  I only get to see a couple of Radde's each year on the patch, so wanted to give it some attention and try to get some photos.  As it moved towards the blow of a small hillock I was watching it with my bins and then realised that somewhere behind it, in a low tree was another phyllosc.  As soon as I got focused on this second bird I knew I had re-found the "mystery warbler"!

This thing clearly had  dark sides to the crown and a well marked lateral crown stripe, plus two wingbars and a strong yellowish  suffusion to the underparts.  I set about securing photos of it and putting the news out to a few local birders who had been contributing to the discussion on the ID since the first photo appeared on Facebook last week.  The bird moved "nuthatch-like" along branches and peering underneath them, and though I lost it a number of times it reappeared and eventually offered some close views.

Hopefully more information about the ID of this bird will be forthcoming soon, but it is clearly part of the "Blyth's Complex" and seems to fit Hertart's Leaf Warbler of the nominate race goodsoni. Hertart's is regarded as a Chinese endemic (some photos on Oriental Bird Images show winter birds from Hong Kong).

During the time I watched it it did not vocalise, but it did take an interest in a tape of goodsoni contact call that I had on my iPhone.

The same little area also held an Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher and two Black-naped Monarchs.

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