Wednesday, 21 August 2013

MARSH TIT AND WILLOW WARBLER...or is it?

If any bird throws a birder into panic inducded migraine and confusion it has to be "willow warbler or chiff-chaff" and "marsh tit or willow tit", well it does for me and I know I'm not alone out here.
So imagine my joy when I come across both species within five feet of each other late yesterday evening after work...oh joy!
I knew I should've ventured out to Harrington for the the Woodchat Shriek but probably would've dipped out by the time I had got there, though dipping is more preferable to sitting in front of a computer screen, bird book in one hand, field notes in front of me and a case of anadin by my feet.
I apologise for the ropey images, it was late, I was knackered and rather excited at the possible Marsh Tit as I've not seen one at this location until last night and there was two...too(!) and I had the hound...excuses over here's the first two images of the Willow Warbler/Chiff-Chaff....probably

Now this individual was very scruffy/in moult and there wasn't much to go on for identification in the field. Normally if there is confusion I look at the length of the primary projections, thanks to Mike for the tip on that one, however the bird was busy hopping around snatching insects and the resulting images aren't conclusive, so I then looked at the legs...hmmm dark and there isn't a strong supercilium either, so in the field I was going for Chiff-Chaff, until it did two things, firstly as it went around hunting for insects it's tail was bobbing up and down like a wagtail, this I've been told and heard on Springwatch is the "jizz" of a Willow Warbler, the second was it's call...definite Willow Warbler (100% certain on the call) however I did hear on that episode of springwatch how in a part of Sussex Chiff-Chaff's have started to partly imitate Willow Warbler calls, confused? I am, anyone want to take a punt on the id? Going on the jizz and call I'm 70% certain it's a Willow Warbler....my girlfriend pointed out "Is it sat on a Willow"....very helpful lol.
So then I come across the two Marsh Tits, unlike Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits and Blue Tits, these two were very shy, always retreating back to the dense undergrowth and popping out to feed on some seed heads, I couldn't get close enough for many images and when I did they're not brilliant and not very helpful....have a look.
 Told you.....seed heads to the right of the frame.
Now I'm normally quite good with Willow Tit/Marsh Tit separation. Firstly I look at the "bib" (the black bit under the bill) on a Marsh Tit it SHOULD be smaller then a Willow Tit, kind of like a Hitler style moustache (sorry but it does) but just to add confusion into the mix some Marsh Tits bibs can be bigger then some Willow Tits, also not clear from the image is my second visual clue I go on, on the Willow Tit the panel along the birds secondaries is normally paler sadly due it's twitchy behaviour not only could I not get could visual confirmation nor confirmation from the image of this aspect of the two species.
Now I am going to stick my neck out (if I'm wrong please let me know) and say it's a Marsh Tit, two reasons 1)Gut feeling...not scientific 2) the two birds were calling to each other and in the field notes I wrote down "sounds like a Greenfinch" and when searching the net last night I clicked on a sound recording of a Marsh Tit, exactly the same call. I'm going back this evening after work minus the hound to have another go and get some better images
Two things for certain it isn't a Coal Tit lol and I've run out of anadin too.

4 comments:

  1. I'd say you were right on both counts Doug.

    I've got some pictures I took a while ago of a Willow Warbler with dark legs. Sadly birds don't always read the ID guides like us.
    Pass the Anadin.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Keith, I wish the birds would read them id books from time to time it would make life a lot easier:)

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  2. Look at the bill on the Marsh/Willow Tit - small white spot at the base means it's a Marsh Tit.

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