1 EAGLETON NOTES: Chiffchaffs

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Monday, 25 November 2019

Chiffchaffs

The Outer Hebrides is a wonderland of and for birdlife. I would love to be able to photograph a lot more of it but, if I'm truly honest, I just don't put enough effort into it. In other words I'm an opportunistic birdlife photographer. On the whole I've managed some passable photos over the years which have been good enough for proper identification at least.

Quite a few of my photos have, however, been taken through my kitchen window with the limitations that can impose in terms of reflections, distortion and, when the wind blows, salt on the glass. I'm also either photographing into the sun (in the morning - the house faces East) or in the shade when the sun is behind trees, buildings or the house. On the other hand if I'd tried to go out of the house to get the photo the subject would have long fled.

So it was yesterday. Two birds flitted into the garden and came right up to the window. I was pretty sure I'd never seen them before. I reached for the ever-present camera but by the time it was switched on they were in a lavatera bush 10 metres away. The light was poor but, in the 60 or so seconds they were in the garden, I managed some photos.






The visitors are Chiffchaffs. They are normally summer visitors, wintering around the mediterranean, but some have started to over-winter in the UK. There are also those that come to the UK in the winter from the east and look slightly different in appearance. They are much greyer than our normal green Chiffchaffs with just a little green in the wings and are known as Siberian Chiffchaffs which these visitors look very much like. They also sound different (but I couldn't hear them). This year there has been an influx of Siberian Chiffchaffs to the Outer Hebrides with 3 at Ness, 3 on Uists recently and 5 on Barra. (Information supplied by Yvonne Benting of Outer Hebrides Birds).

40 comments:

  1. They are such beautiful creatures. My OH will be very envious.

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    1. Despite being quite dull, JayCee, they were strikingly beautiful.

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  2. I've never heard of chiffchaffs before (as far as I can remember). So I went on a search via English Wiki to Swedish Wiki to my birdbook. Summary of my studies: Their Swedish name, translated to English, is "fir tree singers". However, my bird book also says they sound like "tjif-tjaf". Which would be Swedish for "chiffchaff"... :D

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    1. Thank you for that information, Monica. I didn't know they were called after their call.

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  3. Pictures of birds that you occasionally show on your blog are much, much better than what I ever manage - I am usually so in awe of what I observe that I either forget to take a photo or, if I remember, it is too late and the bird is too far away or gone.Chiffchaff sounds like a made-up name, but I suppose it is like our Zilpzalp.

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  4. You got some good shots, I'm afraid here they are far too quick, by the time I've grabbed the camera they've flitted off in flight.

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    1. Amy I was very fortunate because they were only in the garden a minute or so. My camera is kept within fairly easy reach and it's the switching on and focussing that takes the time.

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  5. Neat photos of a lovely bird
    I love the name Chiffchaff. It sounds so cheery.

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    1. Thank you, Maywyn. It is, apparently, a very cheery little bird.

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  6. I heard a chiffchaff in Dorset not so very long ago, or so I thought. I'm not much good at identifying birds. These are pretty ones, so sleek and streamlined, and, as others have commented, with a delightful name.

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    1. Jenny, "I heard a chiffchaff in Dorset not so very long ago" is one of those beautifully scanning sentences that should be at the start of a short story.

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  7. Such pretty little creatures. It was great you were able to capture them on film.

    We don't have them here down this way,as you're aware. Fortunately, however, a variety of many birds call the area around my cabin home...and for that, I am grateful. I love having...seeing...hearing them around the place.

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    1. Lee, I don't have a big variety of birds around the house although with the sea birds and seasonal migrants there are quite a lot in the area. I just don't see many of them frequently near the house.

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  8. We bird as much as we want to. So you got a good photo and identification. I'd say that's pretty good.

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  9. If a picture is good enough to identify a new bird, then it's a good pic in my book. I hope your little chiffchaffs return if they sing as cheerily as their name sounds. (If that makes sense.) Bird life is abundant up here on the hill and I heard a kiwi in the bush last Saturday night!

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    1. Pauline, it makes perfect sense because that is, apparently, why the chiffchaff is so called. Yes, birdlife in rural New Zealand generally always seemed to be abundant.

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  10. Those photos are pretty awesome for an opportunistic photographer! Wouldn't it be great if they would just sit still and pose for us long enough to have their photo taken? But then I guess it wouldn't be so exciting to get a nice photo. I managed to get some photos of Brown Quail the other day. I've never seen them before so was thrilled that I got a couple of photos.

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    1. Yes, Margaret, if they would pose it would be wonderful. Of course birders with huge and expensive lenses on tripods, and infinite patience are rewarded with fabulous photos. The rest of us take what we can get and are thankful. I had lots of Californian Quail around The Cottage in New Zealand but I don't think I ever saw a Brown Quail. Well done.

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  11. I've not seen them here. We did have a Hawfinch recently, and a group of about 12 Red Kites are currently to be seen circling around. Otherwise our only really exotic residents are the Hoopoes.

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    1. Cro, I've never seen a Hawfinch so far as I'm aware. My first sighting of a Hoopoe was at a friend's north of Limoges. They are very striking birds.

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  12. A welcome addition. Well spotted.

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  13. How lovely to have captured them on film. I too am having to take photos when the opportunity arises through windows and it is not ideal.

    I am really missing seeing the Nuthatch in our garden. They used to be regular visitors but since the council in their 'wisdom' cut down many of the larger trees including the Oaks in our road and the neighbouring roads the Nuthatch haven't been seen. A coincidence? I think not. I was hoping by now they would have returned but sadly not.

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    1. Serenata, it's a real shame that your Nuthatch has gone with the destruction of its habitat. They and Treecreepers are fascinating.

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  14. I have never seen that species before. Well done for quickly managing to snap those images. It is hard to imagine those little birds flying over The North Sea with nowhere to land. There is so much that we do not know about birds, their instincts and how they communicate.

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    1. YP, the whole matter of migration fascinates me. We have a lot of migratory birds here but in New Zealand I was acquainted with an authority and author of Godwits which have an amazing migratory story. Away from birds and thinking of butterflies there is nothing as amazing as the migration of the Monarch Butterfly which hatched in New Zealand.

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  15. You were quick to take those photos! I rarely manage to take any photos of the blue jay or chickadees at our feeder.

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    1. Marie, for once my brain acted quickly and registered that these were birds I'd not seen before. I was brought up never to have a camera far away from me but these days with such good phone cameras I'm not always so ready with a camera capable of bird photography. This time I was fortunate. Thank you for visiting a fellow Islander - albeit one on the other side of the world.

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  16. I'm the same kind of bird photographer. I haven't the patience to sit for hours waiting for them to be in the right place, I'm no good at identifying them either or remembering their names but I do enjoy trying to get that good shot. This little one is cute and I love its name.

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    1. I'm with you Diane. Sitting for hours waiting or even stopping the car and trecking back a mile or so to where I'd just seen something is not something I do very often.

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  17. There are sweet looking lttle things, aren't they?

    You did well to get the photos. I usually have my phone close at hand but I'd still have trouble getting organised in time to get a picture

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    1. Thank you Kylie. They are lovely looking little birds. These were too far away for my phone and were take with my 'big' camera with a 200mm lens,

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  18. Comment from New York - your chiffchaffs look quite a lot like our mockingbirds and catbirds, profile/colorwise, although it's tough to tell from the photo what size your bird is. The mockingbirds and catbirds both have hugely extensive "song books" and can imitate the call of any bird they've ever met, plus come up with new tunes at the drop of a hat. Were you able to get a listen to what the chiffchaffs were singing? Are they melodic birds or do they have a rhythmic, repetitive call?

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    1. Marcheline, the bird is a small (about 4" long) insect-eating passerine. It is named after its call ie it's name is onomatopoeic. The call is not particularly interesting.

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