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Monday, 2 November 2009

The Scilly Bright Green Warbler of autumn 1983 - full documentation


A first-winter GREEN WARBLER was present on The Garrison, St Mary's (Scilly), from 26 September until 4 October 1983, where it remained extremely elusive throughout its stay, often not showing at all on some dates.

This is an account from one of the finders - John Ross (J. H. Ross) - with some additional information provided by Barry Reed

''At 1305 hours on 26 September 1983, I was trying to locate an Icterine Warbler which we had just lost in the low Elms along the SE wall of the Lower Garrison, when I heard a strangely familiar call. It sounded very similar to that of Greenish Warbler (trochiloides) which I had encountered earlier in the year in Nepal and, on looking up, saw a medium-sized Phylloscopus warbler with a rather bright yellowish wing-bar. I immediately called over my companions (P. T. Bell, A. G. Ross, Paul Holt and Dave Richardson) and we obtained excellent views of the bird at about 4 metres range. We were all unsure as to whether Greenish Warbler could show rather bright yellow wing-bars, supercilia and throat in some plumage or subspecies we had not yet met. At 1350 hours, we left the bird, having shown it to Barry Reed, Mark Pierman, Adam Davison and Pete Hines, as we wished to see the skulking Thrush Nightingale present at Rocky Hills.

After ruling out the Nearctic Tennessee Warbler, Barry and the others identified the bird as a GREEN WARBLER and telephoned the information out. During two further viewing sessions later in the week, we obtained further good views and the following detailed description is compiled from our field notes.


About the same size as a Willow Warbler but appeared rather short-tailed. Undertail-coverts reached halfway down the undertail and the wingtips extended to the same point. Feeding behaviour frenzied and dashing like Greenish Warbler, often hovering for short bursts and occasionally flicking wings. A bright warbler, at times recalling Wood Warbler in general plumage tones, though this varied greatly according to light conditions.

Crown, mantle, nape and rump all appeared uniform, a bright, almost lime-green, appearing duller in poor light. Eyestripe narrow and dark. Very slight paler eye-ring where it made contact with the eye-stripe. Ear coverts surprisingly pale, coloured in fact as a continuation of the throat colour, although a fraction less bright. Supercilia long as Greenish Warbler, reaching to hind crown and coloured bright yellow, the shade equivalent to that on the throat and of the greater covert bar. Also, a fraction broader behind the eye, bulging up very slightly above the eye, but generally straight except when the head was pulled back into feathering when it turned up distinctly at the rear.

The wing-bar was formed through bright yellow fringes to the greater coverts, rather short and broader than Greenish Warbler; also a shade broader at the distal end. A flash of similarly bright yellow at the bend of the wing when closed. Secondaries and tertials centred dark, possibly with a brownish wash. Both sets of feathers finely fringed yellow, the secondary fringes combining to form a rather obvious wing panel. Primaries darkest, fringed very narrowly indeed with the same yellow tone. Upper surface of rectrices darker, with paler, yellowish-green toned fringes, the outer pair whitish or broadly edged whitsih. Tip of tail neatly rounded with central notch.

The throat and upper breast washed uniformly rather bright yellow, this colour continuing on the ear coverts. Rest of underparts pale yellow, almost uniform but yellower on the sides of the vent and undertail coverts. In shady conditions beneath the tall pines, the underparts assumed a much greener appearance, especially about the throat. In good light however, the throat and upper breast seemed of equivalent brightness to Wood Warbler.

Legs pale - pale brown or brownish-flesh. Bill dark with paler base to lower mandible. Bill rather long and stout when compared to the adjacent Willow Warbler. Eye dark.


Typical call note was ''ser-wee-ur'', similar to but more drawn out than that of Greenish Warbler, with a rather more emphatic tri-syllabic note with the emphasis on the central 'ee' sound; higher-pitched, slurred and somewhat shrill.


There is only one photograph published of this bird - that taken by Robin Chittenden and featured in Philip Palmer 2000, First For Britain and Ireland 1600-1999