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Monday, 19 January 2015

Ross Castle Chiffchaffs and Siberian Chiffchaffs

There are now at least 25 Chiffchaffs at Ross Castle and, in parts of the woodland, Chiffchaff is actually the commonest species. Though wintering numbers have gradually increased in southern Britain and the south coast of Ireland in recent years (see the Atlas map below), the numbers now at Ross Castle are perhaps the highest ever recorded in Ireland in winter.

(Click on the map for a closer view).

And among the Chiffchaffs, a Siberian Chiffchaff has been present since December last. Since the recent icy weather there has been a gradual increase in the numbers of Chiffchaffs, and with them, at least two new Siberian Chiffchaffs.

Bird one: Siberian Chiffchaff. This individual has been present since December last, and can be picked out by the greyish patch on the upper mantle, just above the bend of the wing and visible on both sides (this photo taken today is a little overexposed, but you can still see the feature. See also the photo a couple of posts below, from Davey Farrar). 
Ross Castle, 18th January 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Bird one: This is a better view of the above bird, taken on 15th January. Note the greyish patch above the bend of the wing. (M.O'Clery).

Bird two: Siberian Chiffchaff. This individual is particularly 'frosty' white below and grey on the mantle, with the typical faint 'tobacco stain' brown on the ear coverts, a noticeably flared supercilium behind the eye, and only faint green edges to the wing feathers. This bird was heard to call several times, a slightly piping "Weet!", with just the slightest downturn at the end, and at one point was answered by another, unseen nearby in the foliage. Ross Castle, 18th January 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Bird three: Siberian Chiffchaff. This individual is notable for the particularly striking pale wing bar, though not quite as 'frosty' looking as the above bird. Ross Castle, 18th January 2015 (M.O'Clery). 

And this one? Not sure. Perhaps Bird two. Perhaps it's another one?

Chiffchaff, Ross Castle, 18th January 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Above, a regular Chiffchaff, at Ross Castle. Most Chiffchaffs present were straightforward colybita types, with generally overall greenish-olive and yellow tones, though some were notably pale, though not quite fitting with Siberian Chiffchaff. Changing angles and light make the full range of variation difficult to interpret, but certainly some seem to have paler 'northern' genes to them.

Chiffchaff, Ross Castle, 18th January 2015 (M.O'Clery).

Above, another colybita Chiffchaff. While all the Siberian Chiffchaffs showed blackish legs - including very dark, or black, soles to the feet - the bird above was one of the few colybitas to show all-black legs and soles. The Chiffchaffs more typically showed dark brown or blackish legs, but yellow or pale brown soles.