Friday, 20 May 2011

Bird News: Rare Siberian Chiffchaff Spotted in London

Siberian chiff chaff at East Reservoir (c) Mark Pearson

A rare bird from Siberia has taken up residence in Hackney's Woodberry Down Estate. The Siberian chiffchaff has been spotted at London Wildlife Trust’s East Reservoir Community Garden in Stoke Newington.

The bird is over 3000 miles off course - it is usually found in eastern Russia and Siberia. It's the latest in a long run of rare bird sightings in Hackney by members of the Hackney Wildlife Group. The chiffchaff is one of the rarest species spotted in the area so far, along with an Iceland gull (actually from Greenland), which was sighted in mid December.

Identification by MP3

Mark Pearson, avid Hackney bird watcher and a Community Officer for London Wildlife Trust explains that “The identification of eastern races of chiffchaff is a dark art, and a whole suite of features are required. The best way to tell them apart (in tandem with a full description of appearance, and ideally good quality photos) is by their contact call.

"Chiffchaff subspecies all call in very different ways - and the clincher with our bird here is that it calls perfectly as a Siberian chiffchaff. It even responds instantly to an MP3 of Siberian chiffchaff played via my mobile phone! So we have a full 'body of evidence' to ascertain its ID.”

An amazing 'magnet' in an otherwise unforgiving urban sprawl

East Reservoir is a beautiful site in the middle of urban Hackney, where stunning reed beds surround a large man-made lake, which ripples with reflections of the neighbouring Woodberry Down Estate. Under-used by local people in the past, London Wildlife Trust is trying to make it much more accessible, a haven for both people and wildlife. London Wildlife Trust staff are now permanently based at East Reservoir, and a new eco-classroom and community garden are up and running.

“East Reservoir is important for birds for a variety of reasons - it's an oasis of precious, mixed habitats in a very built-up, inner city environment. Breeding birds include reed bunting, common pochard and sedge warbler, and, for migrant species, it's an amazing 'magnet' in an otherwise unforgiving urban sprawl. The quality and quantity of migrants that occur here is unrivalled by any other similar sized site" says Mark.

Reference- London Wildlife Trust