Sunday 19 April 2015

Nomansland Wood Warbler

Nomansland nr Wheathamsptead: I’m glad today’s Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) sighting wasn’t the first time I’d seen or heard this species. It was a beauty but it was underwhelming in the “it stayed high up in the canopy, not singing, against a dazzling white, cloudy sky” kind of a way. But, the great thing about having experienced the species before is that you can superimpose previous joy and delight into the now. You can borrow from the past to enhance the present. And that’s what I did today. I remembered the first and only other time I’ve seen this species. It was in May 2012 at Frogmore Lakes in Hertfordshire, and it remains one of my top 10 birding moments, ever.

Wood Warbler, Frogmore Lakes, 27/05/2012. Throwing back his head in full song

Wood Warbler, Nomansland, 19/04/2015 (record shot)
It was a warm, sunny, blue-sky May day. Gathered under beech trees, bathed in dappled light, a group formed, completely captivated by a lemon-chested, white-bellied, singing male Wood Warbler. Although still back-lit and fast moving, he was lower in the trees than the bird at Nomansland. And, he was a singer. Boy, was he a singer...heart and soul and body. He was singing like his life depended on it and, in a way, I suppose it did. If you’ve never witnessed a Wood Warbler in full song, you’ve missed out. It is something to behold. He starts off slow and subdued, trills rolling out, and then the speed and volume increase until finally, head thrown back, the last notes are ballooned up into the canopy, far and wide, as his whole body shakes with the force of the crescendo. It is something incredibly pure, and wonderful to watch. I hope I get the opportunity again in the not too distant future and I’m very glad to have seen the shadow of it today.

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