Willow Warbler, Phylloscopus trochilus

Several Willow Warblers have patches in the wood behind the house. The one in the foreground here struck up one evening in June 2005 as we were recording the Hobby family, who live right next door -- to the warbler that is!

Willow Warbler 160 kb/s mp3, 1.5 Mb, 1 min 20 s, Telinga with dish

2004 and 2005 were good years for these warblers in the wood. 2006 I'm not sure about, and 2007 doesn't look so good. We've heard little song, and one bird in particular hasn't returned to his tree in another part of the wood. The main bird in the recording above is back, but it's the only one we've heard. Possibly the poor weather has something to do with it as my impression is good Willow Warbler singing happens on fine, fairly still days.



We've definitely lost one of the Willow Warbler singers in the wood, but the other pair — or even group — is doing fine. We're hearing two in the same patch, and there may even be three. This is the location next to where the Hobbies were. We're so pleased that I've added a long recording made on 28th May.

Willow Warbler May 2009 3 min 45 s, 4.3 Mb

The next evening, with temperatures falling rapidly after a hot day, one of the warblers was stimulated into some unusually long phrases. There are five songs in this clip, with the last going on for a full 15 seconds. Maybe it was something to do with the passing Blackcap . . .

Willow Warbler long songs (1.33 Mb) 1 min 9 s, 1.4 Mb


Garden Warbler, Sylvia borin

Not in a garden, these two, but hiding out in Hemsted Forest. We'd never heard Garden Warblers before, and when this pair struck up as we passed on the track next to their thicket we found ourselves thinking Blackcap, only to dismiss the idea almost immediately. A check with Geoff Sample's cds later identified them quickly as their song is very distinctive.

I recorded them over three days in mid-July 2007, all of which were too windy for good recordings. Hemsted Forest, being on a ridge, is also exposed to surrounding traffic noise, but worst of all are the jets on their way to and from Gatwick. So apologies for some clips that aren't up to scratch qualitywise. Hopefully I'll be able to replace them with better samples one day.

The first two clips are of the male singing in semi-mature and quite dense deciduous wood by the main southern track into the Forest. The first clip was made with the Telinga dish mic and so is the least affected by ambient noise of all the others here. The second was made two days later with a pair of omni mics I wanted to trial and so is more affected by wind and other noise.

Garden Warbler male 1 (941.85 K) 0 min 48 s

Garden Warbler male 2 (1.35 Mb) 1:28

Then there was an answering bird which sang a scratchy refrain and which we took to be the main singer's mate. Here she is, with hubby and a zitting Wren chipping in from time to time (mics: NT55 omni with heavy filtering to suppress a passing jet)

Garden Warbler female (1.13 Mb) 1:14

At first we thought her scratchy calls were subsong by the male before he launched into his main song. Anyway, her voice led to us provisionally calling them the scritchy-scratchy warblers before we identified them properly. Similarly, my name for the Blackcap was the burble-bird before I found out what he was!

Sometimes they way they sang sounded almost conversational. Here's a sustained 25-second stream of "talk" by the male, before he returns to making something like his more usual calls at the end. Mrs GW can be heard in the background twice near the end, once very faintly and then more clearly as she adds her refrain (mics: NT55 omni)

Garden Warbler male talk (806.95 K) 0:51

Opposite the stretch of dense thicket where they live there's a large open area several acres in extent of scrub woodland, and in this, about 50 yards back from the track, is a low, half-dead tree with bare top branches. This, it became clear, was the male's singing tree, which he has to share with a crow and the occasional woodpigeon. When he sings from his tree it seems the male warbler embellishes his song with varied introductory passages, which one might transcribe as "swee-swaw", "ta-twoi", or just little trills. Here he is. I'm afraid it's a bit windy. (mics: NT55 omni)

Male in song tree (1.69 Mb) 1:51

Yes, there is a Turtle Dove in the background near the end. To hear it go to the Pigeons and Doves page. It's what we'd really gone into the forest for, with these warblers as a delightful bonus.


Little known fact: Corinne says that Messiaen considered his beloved Garden Warbler the finest of all the songbirds. "La Fauvette des jardins" (composed in 1970) is his longest piano piece -- 34 minutes!


A warbler mp3 link that's completely unrelated to our area but so good that . . .

I couldn't resist giving this link to Klas Strandberg's Blyth's (Reed) Warbler page, where you'll find an excellent recording of this bird made in Sweden. Only 1 Mb, it's nearly 3 minutes long and every phrase is worth listening to -- this songster is almost as inventive as the Nightingale. BirdGuides gives the European distribution and UK sightings of this non-native bird. Klas makes the Telinga dish microphone.

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