BAD miss. Please don’t spit the dummy-torum

I plead guilty. I fell behind. All sorts of things interfered with the best laid plans. If I were rather more au fait with software and laptops I might have done better. Anyway, I photographed two birds for you today. I shall hold Chinese Thrush over until tomorrow and offer you today the staggeringly popular (in HK) Blyth’s Reed Warbler or Acrocephalus dumetorum as it is less commonly known. I was told that it is so popular because all previous HK records have been mist net ticks. I have no idea whether this is correct but it sounds plausible.

When I was a young lad starting out in birding…..oooh, must be 20 years ago now, I was told that BRW is like a rather grey version of Reed Warbler. Lars Jonsson is rude enough to describe it as Markedly colourless. He does say first winter birds have a warmer tone. He also says it has a sullen face. I get the feeling the BRW has done something to upset Lars. It has also offended the editors of HBW Alive who insist its plumage is drab and cold.

My observations today suggest that the light plays a big role in assessing colour since I have images that make this bird look quite rich toned. The BRW in question has been occupying The Chinese Garden in Shatin Park for a while and is a remarkably friendly bird. Completely unfazed even when it met blog reader Mike Kilburn. It is about 2 minutes walk from a huge shopping mall, a mass transit railway station and about 1 minute from the local Marriage Registry. One bride was having her pics taken in the garden this afternoon and we tried to interest her in the the warbler but she seemed surprisingly indifferent. I think she may have been reading Lars’ book.

So, drum roll, here are a few shots of Blyth’s Reed Warbler. It rarely goes open kimono and it took me about 3 hours to get 4 or 5 decent shots. I do not regard a bird sitting on a paving slab as an acceptable shot.

Vaguely cold toned in number one.Acrocephalus dumetorum Quite neutral in number two?Acrocephalus dumetorum2 And again in number 3. (I like this one).Acrocephalus dumetorum3 Number 4 is not really cold, is it?Acrocephalus dumetorum5 You won’t find it in the field guides but BRW has springs in its legs.Acrocephalus dumetorum4And finally, how do you call this grey, cold or colourless? Its a rich warm brown. Acrocephalus dumetorum warmAnd that is it for today. I hope you forgive the short interlude and that you enjoyed the ‘hold’ music.


23 thoughts on “BAD miss. Please don’t spit the dummy-torum

  1. Hmmmm…I think the whole problem with some folk’s opinion of BRW is the missing “e” at the end of Blyth. This little warbler does seem a rather joyous individual and that might account for its friendliness. Not at all sullen. Maybe your writer was just practicing a bit of personal transference.
    Since many are picking faves, I’ll go with number 3 for its differentitudiness 😀 and number 5 for the excellent depiction of this little fellow’s hops.

  2. It was worth the interregnum. If we are selecting from the menu – I’d like a nu her 2 and a number 3 please. Very handsome warbler, excellent images and bon repartee

  3. A very nice series Andrew. Like you, I enjoy the image where the bird is climbing the plant. Such an unusual pose. Great detail and clarity in all of them

  4. My favourite is the first picture – I find it looks rather regal (without the gay colours) and love that little spot of sunlight reflected off its chest. #5 is a cute shot, it almost looks like it is skipping / dancing in the sunshine!

  5. Very entertaining read Andrew – I love your sense of style and humour. Super images of a difficult bird – light does play a huge part in these, and noticeably so when they pitch into a crop patch on Shetland on a grim October afternoon…

    • Thanks Alister. I try to mix some half decent shots with a little light entertainment. I only birded Shetland once but loved it. I have this idea I’d like to visit Out Skerries one day. Always sounds wonderful.

  6. These are all excellent shots and 3-4 hours to get these required lots of work and patience. I use the word that Mr. Kilborn mentioned. I like nondescript or unremarkable, It just means that there are no outstanding markings and or colorations. This bird might not be colorful but it makes up for any lacking by being bright-eyed and dainty with sleek feathering. I think it is “plum” cute. It matters not whether a bird is colorful or not. They all are beauties in my book. I repeat: these are excellent photos.

    • I think sleek is a very apposite word, Yvonne. It looks slim and streamlined when feeding. A lot of these warblers tend to scurry around on the ground like little mice. They may not be flash and gaudy but they have bags of character.

  7. Oi! “unfazed even by . . . Mike Kilburn”. . . There’s gratitude for extolling the virtues of one of the best birds ever to grace these hallowed shores! (see pix 3 and 5 for Exhibits A and B for the defence – great shots by the way . . .) Anyway, its a good job I’m the acme of equanimity or the dummy really would be pinging round the room at warp speed!

    Actually Blyth’s Reed Warbler is not the only bird that gets this harsh treatment from the field guide authors – Buff-breasted Babbler is described by Craig Robson in A Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia as “very nondescript”.

    • Only teasing, Mike. Your shots were first rate too. It was a bit of a scrum again this afternoon but a few of the pack went chasing a Dusky Warbler so we left them to it. Eventually they realised. I think its very harsh on the birds…. nondescript is not very flattering.

    • Mist nets are very fine nets used to trap birds for ringing / studying migration. You have to be licensed to use one. They don’t harm the birds. Because they are used by so few people and the birds are measured, weighed, ringed and released as quickly as possible it means most birders don’t see the birds. If something rare turns up the ringers can tick the bird on their list whilst the rest of us ‘dip’. IE don’t see the bird. Simple.

  8. I’ll forgive you for falling behind 😉
    I love the ‘number 4, not really cold’ photo. Almost every feather is visible, excellent!

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