I paid a short visit to Briery Leaze Meadow in Whitchurch this evening. This is a small area of rough grassland between Hengrove Park and the Whitchurch district centre. As you can see in the photo, the meadow is almost surrounded by dense old hedgerows: good warbler habitat. This Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) was singing more or less continuously from the hedge on the right while I was there.
Lesser Whitethroats are pretty skulky warblers: they do sometimes venture out on to the tops of bushes, but much less frequently than Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis). Fortunately they have a song that’s easy to recognise: it starts with the usual nondescript scratchy notes that other scrub-dwelling warblers give, but then moves into a far-carrying rattling trill of five to ten notes: very distinctive once learnt, and helpful for detecting birds in spring. Unlike the Common Whitethroat, male and female Lesser Whitethroats look pretty much alike. If seen well they show none of the bright rusty-orange tones to the wing-feathers that Whitethroats have, and in general are a much duller looking bird.
Lesser Whitethroats are unusual among our summer visitors in that they winter in Asia (mostly in India), rather than in Africa. Unlike Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), they haven’t (yet) taken to overwintering in Britain, so are here from April and are gone by October. I’ve seen (or heard) them at a few sites in the city this summer, so possibly they’re having a good year.