Tuesday 28 May 2013

Getting Savi

Yesterday I shared an enjoyable trip to Lakenheath in the evening with Phil. He was in it for the long-staying male Red-footed Falcon which, despite his recent extensive travels, he hadn't seen anywhere in the world. I came for the Savi's Warbler, a bird that I haven't had the chance to chase yet.

On arrival we heard that the falcon hadn't been reliably reported since mid-morning and that the Savi's hadn't yet starting its evening singing session. Walking towards the area of interest, we passed a large group of people intently peering into a plantation. We took a few guesses as to what the attraction was but they were all incorrect... it turned out to be the most obliging male Cuckoo that either of us had ever seen! It put on a superb show, perching for long periods in good light in between diving into the undergrowth in pursuit of large caterpillars.

There were large numbers of Common Swifts, and a single House Martin, taking advantage of the abundance of emerging insects but we only saw two Hobbies. A Bittern boomed from the reeds while one or two cream-crown Marsh Harriers quartered the fen and a Cetti's Warbler sang from another plantation. I joined the gathering waiting for the warbler while Phil remained further back in case the falcon showed up. I had arrived just on time as the bird had apparently started singing very recently and I didn't have to wait long before it gave a burst of reeling, similar to a Grasshopper Warbler but heavier and more metallic in sound. It was instantly apparent that seeing the bird might be an entirely different challenge as the persistently powerful breeze promised to keep any warbler in the sheltered under-storey of the reedbed, although it didn't put off a particular male Reed Bunting which maintained its proud position atop one of the most exposed perches.

The bursts of singing grew longer and more regular, giving us more of a clue as to where the bird was. Phil rejoined me at this point and a collective penetrating stare into the rustling stems by the assembled crowd reaped the reward when the SAVI'S WARBLER appeared near a close-by bush. This first view was brief, but good enough for the tick. I did want further views though to fully appreciate the bird and its identifying features, and to hopefully get some images so we continued to stake it out. It soon reappeared, perching quite obviously in the said bush and this allowed all of its features to be scrutinised. The bird was a rich, warm, intense brown and had a large, fan-shaped tail - both features reminiscent of Cetti's Warbler. The undertail coverts were extensive, washed light greyish-brown with pale tips just noticeable. The breast and flanks were washed a similar greyish-brown to the vent and undertail coverts and the bill struck me as rather long and spiky. The wind died down and the evening progressed, but the light was still good and so the bird ended up giving prolonged showings on a number of occasions, making me a very happy man indeed. A Kingfisher dashing past was a nice touch. Ta, Phil.

Savi's Warbler