As I get more confident about recognising bird song (a slow process) I am more relaxed about not seeing the singer or caller. Consequently, on the warbler front, I am happy to have heard Cetti’s, wood and grasshopper this year and do not feel cheated at not seeing them—although that would have been a bonus.
The Cetti’s song burst out of the hedgerows when I strolled around Stanwick Lakes in Northamptonshire in March, and Otmoor in May.
The wood warblers performed beautifully when I made my annual pilgrimage to White Wood above the River Dart on Dartmoor on 27 May. With more time I might have seen them, but it was hard work with the oak trees now in leaf. I was happy just to wander down the track in a haze of green, hearing at least three of them singing. I have put a brief recording on YouTube here.
I was not expecting to hear grasshopper warblers on my Dartmoor visit. Professor Charles Tyler, an environmental biologist from Exeter University who studies birds on Dartmoor, spoke at the Dartmoor Preservation Association AGM and mentioned them. He told me that they were singing early in the morning between Lane End and Tavy Cleave, which I had planned to visit the next day. So I was there at 6am, and as I walked along the leat towards the cleave I heard them whirring in the morning mist in the tight patches of western gorse.
It has been my best-ever year for warbler species; I have seen or heard all that I could expect in my normal bird-watching locations. Seen and heard: blackcap, chiffchaff, Dartford warbler, garden warbler, lesser whitethroat, reed warbler, sedge warbler, whitethroat, willow warbler. Heard: Cetti’s warbler, grasshopper warbler, wood warbler. So 12 in all. Happy memories!