Birdwatch: Cetti’s warbler

The Cetti's Warbler has a reputation of being reclusive.   Pic: Michael Flowers
The Cetti's Warbler has a reputation of being reclusive. Pic: Michael Flowers
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Most warblers leave this country in autumn to spend the winter in Africa or around the Mediterranean. One that doesn’t is the Cetti’s warbler which instead moves into reedbeds.

It has a particularly loud and penetrating song, ‘per-chee, per-chee, per-chee’, which has been heard in numerous places across Yorkshire in the past week as first year birds disperse from breeding sites. They will go on singing even in December and January.

One was caught and ringed at Wheldrake Ings near York; there are two on the Blacktoft Sands and Potteric Carr reserves and one at Swillington Ings among other places.

The Cetti’s warbler has a reputation of being a skulking and seldom seen bird but sometimes can show surprisingly well. Its main features are a chestnut coloured back and long cocked tail rounded at the end.

Cetti’s warblers, named after the 18th century priest and naturalist Francesco Cetti, were once mainly confined to Mediterranean areas but spread northwards over the last century and were first found nesting in Kent in 1972. Yorkshire’s first pair nested on the Tophill Low reserve in 2006, a success repeated this year.

This year seems to have been an exceptional one for them in Yorkshire while in 2012 a pair bred as far north as the Leighton Moss reserve in Lancashire - three were present there last week. We can expect further expansion northwards, especially if the milder winters continue.

Cetti’s warblers favour damp scrubland and feed on small flies, beetles, caterpillars and other insects, small snails, spiders and occasional earthworms.

Males are much larger than females and some hold large territories with up to three females. Consequently, the population is judged on the number of singing males present rather than ‘pairs’, with 2,500 recorded last year. In winter they move into reedbeds where they find enough food to survive in freezing conditions, although they are vulnerable in prolonged periods of snow.

More rough-legged buzzards have arrived with one showing well over farmland at Grindale near Bridlington, and others at Carr Naze, Filey, Leven, Hatfield Moors, Langdale Forest and a juvenile in Sleddale and Bransdale on the North York Moors.

Four great grey shrikes are present in Langdale Forest and others on Budby Common and Thorne and Hatfield Moors.

More groups of bearded tits have been flying above the reeds at Blacktoft Sands and parties of five and two were seen at Flamborough Head.

A black brant goose was seen with dark-bellied brent geese near Long Bank, Kilnsea and long-tailed ducks at several places including at Pugney’s Country Park near Wakefield.

A yellow-browed warbler was seen inland near the car park at Wyming Brook, Sheffield, while 14 whooper swans are at their regular winter site at North Duffield Carrs in the Lower Derwent Valley. Ten more were seen at Fairburn Ings.