The Puffin Whisperer comes back from a walk and turns the back of her camera towards me to show me a bird she doesn’t recognise. I think it’s a Yellow-Browed Warbler. We get all the books out and check. Yes, it is.
The next day we’re on the trail of one of the smallest birds to visit the UK, the Yellow-Browed Warbler. Here it is:
A photograph can never convey just how restlessly busy this vagabond waif is, nor how small.
This tiny character hatched in a nest in Siberia, or somewhere from just west of the Ural Mountains, eastwards to eastern Siberia, Mongolia and Northeast China. During the winter most of them are in South East Asia, but not this one. In summer, they live at altitudes of up to 2,440 m, and in winter up to 1,525 m. But not this one.
This one’s in a scrubby-little rubbish-filled wood next to a security fence for an abandoned railway in Newton Abbot in South Devon. It’s almost at sea level.
What’s it doing here? Well, eating insects and living it up, apparently. After all, why fly up to 6,000km to South East Asia when you could just fly 3,000km to the UK. It’s no wonder their population’s expanding if they’re more likely to make it back to Siberia to breed from Devon than they are from India, Taiwan or Malaysia.
They’re usually found in the UK from September to November and only in passing. This one’s still here in January. The RSPB’s website says the UK over-wintering population is eight. I think that might be out of date now, given their recent success in overwintering, but still, eight isn’t very many, is it?
I’m dizzy after following it hopping and hovering through the trees. What a lovely little character.