Hume’s Warbler – 1993 first for Pembrokeshire

Phylloscopus humeiTelor Hume / Telor Aelfelyn Humevagrant

After sea-watching at Strumble Head and being pleased with seeing a velvet scoter, I returned home, all of half a mile, and looked around the garden.  I noticed a bird which was quite active and looked interesting.  Watching it through my binoculars, it was a yellow-browed warbler, but looking at it more carefully I began to wonder.  It was greyer than yellow-browed warblers that I had seen before and I began to wonder if it could be a Hume’s yellow-browed warbler, as it was called back in 1993.

They tend to arrive later in the autumn than yellow-browed, and the date of 20th November was late.

Carefully taking notes on all the features I could on the bird, convinced me that this was a Hume’s leaf warbler.  Phoning around a number of local birdwatchers, most were out, birding we hope, but managed to get in touch with Garham Rees and Stuart Devonald by some means, which I can’t remember now.  We all had good views of the bird during the afternoon.

It liked to be in the sunny areas, presumably where insects were most active so it could feed.  It moved around with the sun during the day, from willow scrub into a large ash tree.  It was present from 11:30 until 16:15, when it became dark.  It was not seen again.

Description:

The general appearance was drab, compared to yellow-browed warbler one of which turned up in the garden on 29th October, so my memory on the appearance of yellow-browed was fresh.

The upperparts were grey/olive in colour and the underparts greyish white.  The supercilum was buffish in colour, lacking yellow tinge of yellow-browed, wider behind the eye.  The tail was shorter than that of chiffchaff, which was also present.

There were pale edges to the tertials.  there was one wing bar on each wing, with a slight suggestion of a second on the right wing only, again lacking the yellow pigment of the yellow-browed.  Its plumage was in fresh condition.  The bill was wholly dark as were the legs.

The bird called several times, it was like that of chiffchaff but duller (lower) and different from the of yellow-browed, which I have heard before.  Yellow-browed I would describe as coal tit like in pitch.  Some calls were more like a sparrow, probably the best way I could describe them.  Its call was distinctive and helped me locate the bird on a few occasions.  There were a few variations in the calls, some sounding chiffchaff-like, but there were most distinct than the fairly soft chiffchaff call, they sounded clearer, more distinct.

Stephen Berry

Pembrokeshire Bird Report, 1998.