A summer visitor to woodland edges and scrub areas
I always feel that the spring has milestones; as you pass each milestone so summer gets closer until you suddenly realise summer has arrived! The first milestone is the first chiffchaff singing, then the first swallow over head, then comes hearing the musical notes of the willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), usually in the second week in April. Bird song is not normally like human made music but the closest to it must be the song of the willow warbler as it enthusiastically sings its phrase of descending notes down its preferred scale, there is nothing quite like it elsewhere in the bird kingdom in my opinion.
Unless you have one in the hand (having been caught whilst ringing) I defy anyone to confidently tell the willow warbler from the chiffchaff by plumage alone. They are so very alike in appearance and even have similar habitat preferences. In spring, though, it is not a problem distinguishing between them because, having just arrived back from their wintering quarters in Africa, the males of both species are in good voice and establishing territories. The willow warbler's lovely, cascading song phrase is in stark contrast to the continual, monotonous repetition of two notes offered by the chiffchaff.
Once the singing ends, however, the problems with identification start and many an observation has to be put down as a 'willow-chiff' and remain undetermined. If pushed I would say the willow warbler is slightly greener in appearance than the more buff coloured chiffchaff but, as I said, you need to see them at close quarters to be really sure.
This species has been seen at the following sites featured on the Nature of Dorset:
This map shows the nature reserves and 'hot-spots' featured on the Nature of Dorset where this species has been seen. Obviously it will occur in other places too but this is intended to give you a graphical guide as to the species distribution in Dorset. Click any marker to see the name of the site; you can then click again to see more information about that site.
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This website has been created by, and is the copyright of, Peter Orchard, Wareham, Dorset. The website is run as a hobby and the information is made available free of charge to anyone who finds it useful. No responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions in the data and information supplied. Copyright of all photographs on this website (unless otherwise stated) remains with the publisher or the contributor and they should not be used by others for any purpose without permission.
Please note that the data on this website is not the result of scientific research, it is a collection of random observations made by a very amateur enthusiast. The species database covers everything from mammals to fungi and no one can be an expert in all of these taxa and much of the identification is restricted by the quality of reference material available. One person cannot possibly produce the definitive guide to the nature of Dorset and so species lists will be incomplete and there will be reserves not covered but as time goes by so the database will grow and (depending on health and the weather) the content will become more comprehensive as time passes.
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