The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.

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8 years 1 month ago #13037 by Dave Shedman
Dave Shedman created the topic: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
OK, at this stage I'm not looking for an ID, I'm just looking to find out if we have two different warblers visiting our garden or just one. I'm 99% certain of my ID as African Reed Warbler but we only heard it call once and at the time didn't have access to Roberts Multimedia to listen to a recording. I have subsequently listened to a recording of the call but it was so long after I heard it that I couldn't be 100% certain. If it is an African Reed Warbler, is it a bird that might respond to a recording of its call?

So here are three pics, two are definitely of the same bird and the third one, taken the following day, I think is the same bird but not sure. Bear in mind they were taken at different times of day in different lighting conditions. I know I need to observe it more and try to hear the call for confirmation, but it would help to know if I'm dealing with one species or two different ones.

Bird 1 - profile



Bird 1 - back



Bird 2 - profile

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8 years 1 month ago #13039 by Doug
Doug replied the topic: Re: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
If you go and read all your books you will find that African and Eurasian Reed-warblers are completely inseparable in the field. Unless you have it in the hand and can do a wing formula you cannot ID it AT ALL FULL STOP.

I even spoke to Ian Sinclair and he was saying that they even confuse each other on call and that theory about listening to the species they mimic... what is to stop an African reed-warbler learning some of the mimics of european species from Eurasian Reed-warbler they encounter?

In short if you have narrowed it down to one of the two Reed-warblers that is far as you will get without a mist net. Forget what you have read about plumage tone as what I have read says that yes Eurasian reed has a more olive tone BUT that olive tone will wear off and fade on a long migration and thus cannot be used as a reliable feature....

Anyone who claims to have seen an African or Eurasian Reed-warbler and did not ring it first to know the wing formula is correct is really grasping at straws.

Sasol, Roberts Field Guide, the large Roberts VII. Read any book you like and you simply cannot tell one from the other.

Sorry to disappoint but that is why I refuse to submit any records for either ot the two species for the atlas as I can never be sure.

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8 years 1 month ago #13040 by Dave Shedman
Dave Shedman replied the topic: Re: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
Thanks for the info Doug.

I had actually narrowed it down to African Reed Warbler or African Marsh Warbler, having discounted Eurasian Reed Warbler simply on statistical probability (a bad idea, I know), as my books say Eurasian is a rare and scarce visitor and don't show any records of it in this area. However, just because it's rare and scarce doesn't necessarily mean this isn't one. My guess of Reed Warbler was based mainly on habitat as the vlei where this bird lives matches the reed warbler's habitat rather than marsh warbler's. Its very small size (12-13cm) rules out most other warbler species as far as I can tell.

So I guess what you're saying is that we can never really tick either species on our lists unless we have the bird in hand and an expert to do the wing formula. Does that mean nobody on this forum has either of these species on their lists?

Just typical of my luck to get a warbler visiting my garden and it happens to be one that can't be positively ID'd! <!-- s:cry: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_cry.gif" alt=":cry:" title="Crying or Very sad" /><!-- s:cry: -->

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8 years 1 month ago #13041 by Doug
Doug replied the topic: Re: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
Marsh warbler is fine to ID as its call is distinctive. It is just the two reed-wrblers

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8 years 1 month ago #13042 by Dave Shedman
Dave Shedman replied the topic: Re: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
Thanks Doug.

Unfortunately this little bugger keeps quiet virtually all of the time it's in the tree, only once heard a call that was definitely from this bird. Maybe I'll try playing a recording of Marsh Warbler (if I can find one) next time it appears and see how it reacts. However, if it turns out to be a Reed Warbler then I won't be able to tick it. Is it likely that Marsh Warbler would come out if it heard a recording of its call? I've read that some species can be called out this way and others can't.

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8 years 1 month ago #13044 by Dewi Edwards
Dewi Edwards replied the topic: Re: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
Hi Dave and Doug,

A few pics of Eurasian Reed Warbler for you to compare with Daves pics.







Don't go on the colouring too much as these were taken in May, I would guess that any bird after migrating from Europe to Africa would look a little different and would not be as bright.

Several books mention the primary projection difference, but from Doug's post, it would seem that this is maybe not as reliable an ID feature in the field as they make out? Having said that, if you look at the primary projection difference between my second pic and Dave's second pic, you can see the difference. I would say that based on distribution Dave could almost guarantee that his bird is African Reed rather than European. (Marsh warbler also have longer primaries). It's one of those choices Dave..... Probability says it's African Reed........ but theres that nagging doubt that you've missed a rarity :rolleyes:

Cheers,

Dewi.

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8 years 1 month ago #13045 by Dave Shedman
Dave Shedman replied the topic: Re: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
I'm almost prepared to tick it as African Reed Warbler but it will come down to whether or not my conscience will let me. Here's my reasoning:

I think the shorter wings and the habitat (I only have Sasol and that new photographic Sinclair & Ryan field guide for reference at the moment) will probably rule out Marsh Warbler. The vlei beside our complex, where this bird lives, is mainly very long grass and tall reeds with a stream running through it, as well as a lot of pools of stagnant water and marshy ground. There are one or two very small trees / bushes but very little vegetation other than grass and reeds. To me that sounds much more like Reed Warbler habitat than Marsh. Also, Marsh Warbler is listed as having a shorter, stouter bill and this bird has, to my eye, a longer, slender bill.

I take Doug's point about how virtually impossible the Eurasian and African are to separate in the field, and a total rank amateur like me couldn't make that call even if the bird were sitting on my desk in front of me right now. However, distribution data that I can gather it would have to be classified as a vagrant this far south (Johannesburg). The thing that, in my opinion, clinches it is that this is the second spring / summer in a row we've seen it in our garden (there's a thread somewhere from last year where we went through the whole ID process and came to no conclusion). OK, no guarantee that this is exactly the same bird we saw last year, though I'm convinced it's at least the same species, but what are the chances of a vagrant or very rare migrant bird turning up in exactly the same location two years running? Also, we're pretty sure we saw two of them this morning, which [i:2fgwzrrr]might[/i:2fgwzrrr] indicate a breeding pair?

As I said, it's going to come down to how convinced I am by what I've seen, heard and read as to whether or not I'm prepared to tick it. I'll let you know!

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8 years 1 month ago #13047 by waldens@faerieglen
waldens@faerieglen replied the topic: Re: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
Dave, I had an African Marsh warbler in my garden last season which remained un-identified for a frustratingly long time. I eventually managed to make a (bad) taped copy of the song, I have 2 cassettes, and if you are interested I can let you have the one copy to play and see if the birdie comes out :) I was going to send the tape to Doug for identification when Sue Oertli visited me, and identified it as a Marsh Warbler. (She's very good with bird call id's). We managed to take some pics, which then confirmed the ID. I think it's back, heard a warbler-like song early on Sunday morning, but not long enough for an ID.

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8 years 1 month ago #13049 by Dave Shedman
Dave Shedman replied the topic: Re: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
Thanks for the offer, Amanda, but sadly I have nothing to play tapes on any more, binned all my tapes before I left the UK. Not to worry though, I think I've sorted out my PC problem (a mis-matched pair of RAM modules seems to be the culprit) so I'll be able to re-install and register my Roberts Multimedia software tomorrow and listen to the calls on that. Then all I need to do is hold thumbs that this one will call again one day!

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8 years 1 month ago #13056 by Doug
Doug replied the topic: Re: The warbler issue rears its ugly head again.
Hi Dewi.

In a European context I would agree whole heartedly but some texts I read refer to severe feather wear on long migration greatly shortening primary projection far more than on an African Reed that would probably have far less worn plumage as its movements are shorter. That would make wing projection not a clear means of ID in a Southern African context.

Cheers.
Doug.

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