My decent(ish) finds in Feb 2012: 1 Yellow-browed Warbler Carnon Downs 04/02, 1 Water Pipit Carnon Downs 04/02, 1 Smew Loe Pool 01/02

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Thursday, 29 October 2009

Green(ish) Warbler - part 2

I got down to Church Cove a bit after first light and the bird had already been found. It had been calling continually, but wasn’t when I arrived. Unfortunately those present first thing, weren’t particularly familiar with the call and were unable to say which species it was. I played my iPod (which I’d also been playing in the car on the way down) to a few present, and most people seemed to think it was closer to Greenish, but few were willing to commit with 100% certainty. I heard it call once in flight, to me it sounded more like Greenish, but hard to tell on one call. Those who’d seen it initially suggested that the bird had quite a distinctive yellow wash to the underparts, supporting Green. For the next few hours, it showed briefly at intervals up in the canopy, generally in quite poor light as it became very misty. I saw it quite well on a number of occasions –  in all of the views I got, it looked very lacking in yellow, the supercilium had a hint of very pale yellow (but no more than this one) and the wing-bar (strong) looked creamy. Had I seen it without prior knowledge of it being a possible Green, I would quite happily have passed it off as being a bog-standard Greenish (obviously after eliminating Arctic). The only slight oddity was that it looked a bit drab, or dingy below. Others commented on seeing a yellow wash to the bird under certain lighting conditions, but I just didn’t get this at any time.  However, the tone of the bird did seem to vary quite a lot dependant on how silhouetted it was. During the morning, I also heard it call again once, and again in my opinion it sounded a bit odd, but more like Greenish. We also gave it a bit of Rare Eastern Vagrants on the iPod and seemed to get a bit of a behavioural response from Greenish and not Green, but not really enough of one to say anything important about this. I voiced in my opinions on the appearance and call at the time and didn’t really receive any resistance, but was very mindful of the fact that others had seen it in better light before I got there. I did phone RBA though, stressing that I wasn’t 100% sure, but that I thought it was a bog-standard Greenish and as such, a drive across the country probably wouldn’t be worth it. I should also add that my field experience of this group is very limited – I’ve found 3 Greenish Warblers in Norfolk in the last three years (which I obviously grilled closely) and have seen two others, but have never seen Green or Two-barred and have never seen Greenish abroad.

The bird then disappeared for several hours. Most people stayed on, as all of us were unsatisfied with the lighting conditions under which we had seen the bird and only one or two voiced opinions on the call. Fortunately it was relocated about mid-afternoon after the mist had cleared and showed well (or as well as a phyllosc can) for about 20 minutes, and was seen by the 30 or so  birders present. It then became quite obvious the bird really didn’t have distinctive yellow wash to the underparts and the throat etc. The supercilium was indeed washed with a very pale lemon-yellow, but in my opinion, pretty standard for Greenish Warbler. The wing-bar was strong, but creamy rather than yellow-tinged and the throat and face lacked a distinctive yellow wash to suggest Green (at most only a hint of pale yellow). Other observers, including one person who got it through a telescope noted that the supercilium did not meet in front of the eye, which is a pro-, but my no means definitive Green rather than Greenish feature. I missed this, but I completely believe that this was the case.

In short, I appreciate that they can be very tricky to identify at times, but to me the real question is, was there anything to suggest it was a Green rather than Greenish? I appreciate that both would be rare in Cornwall, but personally I just didn’t see anything at any point that made me think anything other than Greenish. I would welcome comments from anybody else who saw it today, particularly if you heard it (I missed it both times when it was calling continually). Also, if anybody with field experience from Asia has any thoughts I would be interested to hear them.


  1. Received by e-mail from Lee Evans:


    Tried to leave comments on your blog but it won't allow me to

    Ilya, the fact that this bird has yellow in the superciliary, ear-coverts, face, chin and throat, does not have eye-stripes that meet above the bill, has a single very broad greater covert bar, longer primary projection and a long, stout bill suggests to me that the bird is a BRIGHT-GREEN WARBLER. You cannot do them in the field on call - both Greenish and Turkish Bright Green Warbler sound virtually identical to the untrained ear

    All the very best


  2. Lee

    I think opinion is divided as to how much yellow it showed - in my opinion, very little super and virtually none on the underparts.

    That said, people saw it better than we did after I left and I gather a photo was taken, which prompted the change of heart.

    One of these days the Lizard will turn-up an uncontraversial rarity

  3. Many thanks for your comments. Further information for your blog is thus

    The identification of BRIGHT-GREEN WARBLER with poorly marked individuals such as this and possibly from the extreme west of the species' range in Eastern Turkey is that they are incredibly difficult to separate from Greenish Warbler. Many of the calls overlap and it is not always possible for the human ear to detect such slight differencies. The points that suggest the Church Cove bird is a BRIGHT-GREEN WARBLER are the following -:

    1) The failure of the eye-stripes to meet in a thin pale line above the bill

    2) The longer bill slightly broader in width

    3) The prominent single broad greater covert bar and a hint of some paler tips to the median coverts

    4) The light yellow wash to the ear-coverts, face, chin, throat and breast-sides and the distinct yellow in the supercilium

    5) The longer primary projection

    6) The greener rather than grey-toned upperparts

    Very best wishes


  4. Thanks for you further comments Lee - you'll see I've added them to the blog.

    I will try and get down and have another look at the bird tomorrow.

    In the meantime, if you or anybody else would like to offer comments on how to seperate these species please do so.

    Also - if you saw it yourself, please comment!

  5. But to the trained ear...


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