Species of the Month - June 2018

Each month we feature a picture of a species to be found on The Commons. Wherever possible, all species featured have been photographed here. This month we are featuring the Chiffchaff (Phyolloscopus collybita).

Warblers can present challenges in identification for novices and experienced birdwatchers alike, but the chiffchaff has the good grace to shout its name from the treetops. Its frequently repeated two-note song really is quite unmistakeable, and it also starts singing earlier in the year than any other warbler frequenting The Commons. Its appearance is fairly unremarkable, and it is very hard to separate visually from the almost identical willow warbler. A good look through binoculars will reveal that the chiffchaff has very dark legs, whilst the willow warbler’s legs are usually much paler. The best way to be sure is to hear the song; the willow warbler’s is a lovely melodious one, completely different from the rather monotonous effort of the chiffchaff.

Sadly, we rarely hear the willow warbler on The Commons these days, but at least the chiffchaff is still reliably present throughout the Spring and Summer, tending to leave us in October. Some individuals brave the English winter, but most take a Mediterranean break. Not migrating so far as many other summer visitors means that it arrives back sooner then most, giving it a head start on its breeding season.

The photo was taken at Scouts’ Pond, which is accessible from the Jubilee Boardwalk, but you are likely to hear chiffchaffs singing in the wooded areas all around our site.

More pictures and information (including recordings of the song) can be found on the  RSPB and BTO websites.

Click here to see the other Species of the month in 2018.

Click here to see the Species of the Month for last year, or here for 2016's Plants of the Month.