… I popped up to Fife, in east Scotland, to see a little sandy brown bird at the weekend. Not just any little brown bird, but an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler from south-east Europe – in fact a bird I’ve seen plenty of in Greece before! In the UK, though, there have only been around 20 records, and very few of those have hung around anywhere accessible for people to go and see. Uncharacteristically, this bird has hung around for over three weeks now, lingering late into the autumn (giving rise to a few suggestions that it might even attempt to winter?).
One of the benefits of waiting a while before twitching a bird this rare is that the crowds will have subsided – so when I arrived on Saturday morning, expertly chauffeured through the wilds of Fife by Mick F, there were only around four or five other people present… and three of those, Dave Gray’s crew from the Midlands, headed off fairly soon after. This left me able to pick my spot and wait for the bird to come close, and then eventually get some decent photos.
For a bird that isn’t endowed with a vast number of striking features or colours, it was actually pretty charismatic. For a start, it was calling constantly, a harsh fairly loud ‘chack’ note, which made it really easy to keep tabs on throughout as it fed in generally dense vegetation. And then it pretty much never sat still – the characteristic tail-pumping was going on non-stop, and it appeared to be feeding well, even venturing out on a few flycatcher-like sallies above the vegetation for some choice morsels.
Plumage-wise, it could be a bit of a chameleon, by turns resembling a very pallid Icterine or Reed Warbler, though it always felt like a fairly big bird, never recalling Booted or Sykes’s Warbler for me (though clearly the latter is a very real ID pitfall – separated by the primary projection, tail action and subtle differences in call). Another obvious structural feature was the bill – a long ‘broomhandle’ affair, with a completely pale lower mandible and a very broad base when seen head-on. It also seemed to have really sturdy legs, and pretty enormous feet!
All told – cracking views of a cracking lifer, and in combination with the rest of the weekend’s trip, well worth the distance travelled in the end. Many thanks to Mick for doing the last hour’s driving each way from his place near the Forth Bridge, and for the much-needed coffees and lunch – cheers mate!