Bonelli's Warbler 31-08-2015

I had a bit of free time on Monday morning so decided to return to Billinge Hill to have another look at the spotted flycatchers that myself and Paul had been watching the previous evening. I walked up past the horse paddocks and up to the summit, but couldn't find any flycatchers.

I knew that Paul had found flycatchers and also a redstart at the pine copse on the public footpath towards Mountain's farm the year before so I decided to head over that way for a look.

I walked past the pine copse to the gap in the hedge and then looked back to watch a couple of goldcrest at the top of the pine trees. I soon saw another bird flitting around in one of the smaller trees close to the path. At first it was staying too deep in the tree for me to have a decent look, but it looked like another goldcrest by the way that it was flitting about.

After a while it flew out of the tree flycatching and I got my first glimpse of it. I could see that it wasn't a goldcrest but a warbler, and a strikingly pale one at that.

I knew that a few acredula type willow warblers had been ringed recently nearby and so started to think that it might be one of those. I'm not familiar with that race and couldn't remember if they were very pale.

With my interest piqued, I started to concentrate solely on getting a decent photo of the bird for ID. Eventually the bird came back to the front of the tree and I got some photos of it. I got really confused looking at these - I'd never seen a willow warbler before that was pure white below!

I waited around a while longer trying to get a photo of the primary projection, hoping that this would help with the ID. I got a few more photos and the bird flew into the pine copse to where the goldcrest had been previously. I took yet more photos of it in the pine and then it flew deeper into the pine copse out of view.

I decided that my photos should be enough to ID it whatever it was so started to walk back to the car. On the way, I texted Paul to ask him if acredula willow warblers were pure white below and then texted 'Got a warbler photo reminds me of a bonelli's - pure white below, even the vent'. Paul texted back the id features to distinguish it but I thought that the supercillium looked fairly distinct so went back to thinking it was a pale willow warbler again.

When I got home, I uploaded the photos to the blog straight away, and then texted Paul so that he could have a look. I then googled for photos of Bonelli's, and when the first image came up, my heart began to race! It could have been the same bird that I had just photographed.

Still not quite believing what I had found, I posted a cautious thread on the birdforum id page. A few minutes later, Paul had seen the bird on the blog and phoned up, very excited, to say that he thought the bird looked good for a Bonelli's too. I refreshed the birdforum thread while I was on the phone and already the first replies were in, all confirming Bonelli's Warbler!

Bonelli's Warbler Billinge Hill 31-08-2015

Damian P


  1. What a fantastic find and a nice picture.

  2. Great find and picture!Wonder if it will stay around for a bit?

    1. What is this bird doing in north west England when its range is primarily Southern Europe?Climate change?

    2. Depending on weather conditions birds can turn up almost anywhere as they move around after breeding season. Birds dont neccessarily head south either, post breeding-season dispersal in some happens in all directions before eventually heading for warmer climes

      Paul B

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