Saturday, 21 January 2012

Winter Whitethroat!

It crossed my mind as I left my house this morning that my first check of the local patch after the birth of our first child revealed a cracking male Ring Ouzel. How would I fare today during the first patch visit since the birth of our second child? 10 minutes later I flush what looks like a sylvia warbler from between these two unremarkable bushes:

Has a week of intensive sleep deprivation during paternity leave made me hallucinate? I am suddenly wide awake. In flight the bird looked too pale to be a Dartford Warbler and as it flits about in the back of the bush, it eventually reveals itself to be a Whitethroat.  It takes 45 minutes to get these pictures, the bird is elusive and an expert in always keeping at least half a branch and often a whole bush, between itself and me:

And here is some video of the elusive little devil, hand held with a telephoto, so it will be wobbly. Also note the tail pumping:

So a Whitethroat, an abundant species in the summer here, but in January? This bird should be wintering in sub-Saharan Africa, although according to the Birdguides database a few have been recorded in the UK in winter since 2000:
November records: 8
December records:  6
January records: 4
February records: 3
The decreasing number of records throughout the winter months suggest to me that Senegal and South Africa are probably better places for a Whitethroat to be than in the UK. A great local record though. I wonder how many winter records of Whitethroat there are from Oxfordshire? Over to you, Mr Uren...

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