The Warbler Guide App – A British Birder’s View

Every autumn I have a recurring daydream… the dream goes that I’m birding the ‘dead pines’ walk on The Garrison on Scilly. The tail end of a hurricane has battered the islands for two days but now the sun is out and the birds are busy feeding up. A Blackcap is tacking and a couple of territorial (European) Robins are tic-tic ticking but then I hear a high pitched sip. It’s unfamiliar but soon I glimpse a bright yellow throat on a bird as it moves through the pines feeding. Bright yellow super, two big white wing-bars and I’ve bagged myself Britain’s first twitchable Blackburnian Warbler. Mayhem ensues and I dine out on it, literally, all week in The Scillonian Club.

The Warbler Guide App

The Warbler Guide App

The reality is I’m more likely to find a dull greenish-grey bird that stumps me. Is it a Blackpoll Warbler, Bay-breasted or Pine? I’m not sure, I can’t realistically take out every field guide going along with my bins, scope, camera etc so all I have is my phone. Knowing I have to sort this out before I make a fool of myself, oh I learned the hard way on Shetland. Buoyed by finding a Swainson’s Thrush I got cocky. Yes that Grasshopper Warbler had pale tips but a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler that doesn’t always make.

So, I need to sort this. The Warbler Guide, see my review here, would be useful now. If only there was an app… with those calls. Well soon there will be.  Due for release in early 2015 The Warbler Guide App will be a major boost for the UK rarity hunter (I’m sure it will also be a major boost for birders at Magee Marsh or Point Pelee in Spring too or a lone UK birder in British Columbia (me)).

Calls are also something that we birders find very useful as I alluded to earlier. As I walk along with non-birders they are often surprised when I mention a bird without apparently looking… “how did you know that?” they ask and it’s often difficult to say by the call as they might not even have heard. Redwing at night is one that often gets non-birders and me as we walk back from the pub. The Warbler Guide did a great job at explaining sonograms and calls but now we are going to be able to put the song or call to the picture that can only increase our learning. The person who knows everything is usually the one who knows least. birding is all about learning.

I can’t wait to load the app and get using it and I will be posting a full review in due course. Meantimes you can keep following the blog tour by visiting Warbler Watch tomorrow for a Q&A with Tom and Scott.

Warbler Blog Tour

Immigration Forced Me To Miss 2011 Isabelline Wheatear

Thanks to Nigel Farage I can now reveal that immigration forced me to miss the Isabelline Wheatear at Wernffrwd in November 2011. A journey that should have taken four hours too me 28 hours as I didn’t set off on the Thursday morning because the M4 is a nightmare thanks to our open door immigration policy. A spokesman from the Highways Agency confirmed that our roads into Wales are clogged up by millions of East Europeans seeking a better life in Tiger Bay. He said the language barriers are no problem as no-one understands Welsh anyway.


The UKIP400 Club said that even Britain’s biggest listers are routinely missing rare vagrants due to our roads being choked with hoards of immigrants heading to the Norfolk coast but denied that any UKIP400 Club members had dipped on Pacific Swift at Cley-next-the-Sea.

Birders Flock To Colne Valley Regional Park To See Coot

Twitchers were in a flap yesterday after new leaked out via twitter that up to 1244 Coot were wintering in the Colne Valley Regional Park near London. Despite the best efforts of local birders not to get excited by over a thousand, basically, black birds the UK400/500ths broke the news embargo on their twitter feed.

A Coot Yesterday

A Coot Yesterday

IQ40 Club spokesman Barry Gagwell said he was racing to the scene and he hoped the Coots would stay around until the weekend… “it could be a very black Friday” he said. Park Ranger, Tower Hamlets said he hoped the park could cope and urged visiting birders to observe the Birdwatcher’s Code Of Conduct and put the welfare of the Coots first. Some of these birds will have come “from as far away as Tring Reservoirs” he ccommented

No-one from the UK400/500ths Club was available to talk but in a written statement received by The Drunkbirder Offices they said the President very much regretted the leak and that he was rather tired after spending days trying to get people interested in a genuine escaped American White Ibis in Kent and writing out certificates of achievement for basically driving 1000s of miles.

Izzy Wizzy Let’s Get Busy

Before you think I’ve gone all Sooty and Sweep here’s actually another blog about birds… I know, amazing! This time a celebration of all things Isabelline Wheatear from Seaton Snook near Hartlepool. Isabelline Wheatear is one of my bogey birds, a few years back I even dipped two in six days so this time I wasn’t going without news. Andrew Kinghorn kindly messaged me early morning with Colin Green, Steve James and Dave Gray also texting and The Rare Bird Network getting twitter messages out.

Bundling Minnie into the car I headed North. I arrived about 11.00 to smiling faces heading off the beach… on the beach however the news wasn’t so good. The bird had been pushed a lot and had flown off and not seen for 30 minutes. 30 minutes turned into an hour with no sign. I walked to the Snook and almost to The North Gare. No joy.

Seaton Sands

Seaton Sands

It looked like atmospheric landscapes and industry would be the only photos I took.

I decided to head back to the car, give Minnie some food and water and have a quick drink myself. On the way I bumped into Rob Lambert, newly arrived and looking chirpy. Rob’s demeanor changed as I told him the sorry tale. Undaunted he strode off purposefully to the beach.

Back at the car another birder was heading down the road and as I updated him he casually said there’s a Wheatear on that telegraph post (next to the bloody car). There weren’t any other Wheatears around, surely. I got my bins on it and asked him, why he hadn’t considered Izzy… this was it! As I set my scope up it flew the 100 or so yards back to the beach! Isabelline Wheatear! I rang Rob and left and answerphone message to then receive calls from Andrew Kinghorn and Rob to tell me what I already knew. It was back on the beach.

Once again there was a danger of birders chasing and harrying the bird so after we’d all had a good look and it had moved, I suggested to the crowd we all back off and allow it to return to it’s favoured tree stump where we could all get great views and photos. Despite one woman having to be coaxed off the log after stopping for a sit down the bird soon flew in.

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Even Minnie managed to get in on the act and made it to Twitter!

Minnie & Me

Minnie & Me

Manchester United Retain Red Devil To Appease Satan

In a widely anticipated move Manchester United have decided to retain the Red Devil on their club crest after extending their sponsorship deal with the Devil for another two years. Manchester United famously angered their fans when they dropped the title Football Club when the first entered a deal with Old Nick. At the time a spokesman for the club said that Manchester United and Hell were looking for synergy and did not want to alienate those consigned to eternal damnation who had previously not followed the club.

Satan At Yesterday's Press Conference

Satan At Yesterday’s Press Conference

The new deal thought to be worth £3bn involves a tie with all the World’s major banks and was hailed as a strategic alliance between the club and Hades.  A spokesperson for the Manchester United Very Independent Supporters Association (VISA) Lucy Furr said the deal would safeguard the future of the club and would help them once again to battle the white knights of the Christian Cross, thought by many to be a reference to Real Madrid, on equal terms again in the Champions League.

Book Review

Britain’s Habitats: A Guide to the Wildlife Habitats of Britain and Ireland (Wildguides)

Sophie Lake, Durwyn Liley, Robert Still, Andy Swash

Princeton University Press

ISBN: 9780691158556


Britain's Habitats

Britain’s Habitats

This splendid new book from the Wildguides stable is something that has long been missing for many years, a book on the habitats of Britain and Ireland, what to find in them and when. The introduction discusses the ten main habitat types found in Britain and Ireland. It is interesting to note that across the whole of Britain and Ireland 30.8% of habitat is formed from ‘other habitats’ (arable, brownfield and orchard) and 40.5% grassland, of which 34% is improved. Look at the map on Page 8 and you will see instantly that this percentage is very different if we separate Britain from Ireland with a much greater percentage of grassland in Ireland. This may well account for the reduced diversity certainly in terms of birds, mammals, Lepidoptera and Odonata.

There follows a discussion on climate, topography and geology and their effect on habitat. Tellingly there is a discussion about man’s influence and also on climate change. Pages 16 & 17 feature a very informative and at times (where mankind has been involved) timeline of habitat development. Also discussed in detail is the natural process of succession, nothing to do with the Royal family but natural and man’s influences on changes to habitats over time. This informs the need to manage succession at times.

The bulk of the book is broken into the 10 major habitat types and these are further subdivided, as after all woodland can apply to 12 subcategories. Each subcategory is then looked at in detail. Each one starts with a brief description of the habitat types then goes on to discuss similar habitats, origins and development, conservation and what to look for. Separate text boxes look at distribution and extent of the habitats, how to recognise it and when to visit. Each section is beautifully illustraded with photographs of the key habitat features and crucially some of the wildlife to be found there.

At the end the habitat correspondence tables are of limited and interest and the list of species mentioned would have been better indexed but these are minor niggles. Overall this is a superb book and is for anyone who loves wildlife and discovering more about why they are seeing species where they do. It is truly a ‘field’ guide.

Book Review

The Birdwatcher’s Yearbook 2015

Edited by David Cromack

Buckingham Press

ISBN  978-0-95698-768-1



Now in its 35th year BYB continues to go from strength-to-strength. In today’s climate of e-books and smart phones I still find it has a place… and that is not on the bookshelf but in the car. If I’m out in Norolk and want to know the tide times for a wader roost at Snettisham you can bet I can’t get a 3G signal on my phone, I can barely get a signal most of the time so checking tide times is impossible. Not so if I use BYB, a few quick calculations and I know exactly when to be in place. This is the beauty of BYB.

As usual BYB packs a lot on its 328 pages Starting with the features and this year there is a great feature on the NGB or Next Generation Birders. These young people are going to produce the next Martin Garner and Killian Mullarney and their story is heartening. Birding does have a bright future. There are short articles on topics such as saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and advances in tagging that reveals new information about migration. Wildlife artist Michael Demain (whose fabulous Black Grouse painting graces the cover) discusses the future of the Hen Harrier in England and story that has proved very popular this year and has divided a lot of opinion. There then follows a quick run through of 2012’s best bird books and a look at what’s hot on the internet.

Next follows the Diary, something I find extremely useful as I can quickly add species to a day, i.e. my first Swallow of the summer or a peak date for the emergence of the Hornet Moth which save me time looking for key dates to get out and about. The log sheets are similarly useful as you can build up a picture of what you see and more importantly when. There are up-to-date list for birds, the latest BOU update is included, and dragonflies and this year the Butterfly list gets a long wished for update and includes all the regular and rare migrants.

The bulk of the book is made up of the directory, which includes details of just about every local national bird group/club in the UK as well as many international organisations, details of speakers, photographers, and equipment dealers – the works. Of great use are the tide and sunrise/sunset tables so you’ll never miss that killer photo of waders against a setting sun ever again.  There is also a chapter on selected bird reserves and though limited is very up-to-date and fact checked (I know because I’ve fact-checked some of the Leicestershire sites)

All-in-all, I cannot praise the Birdwatcher’s Yearbook highly enough – long may it reign!

John Hague