A Place for Grasshopper Warblers

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A commemorative painting – 

I can hardly resist a brief and triumphant note about one of my little woods which I planted on the Chayne in 2010. The trees have struggled to get a foothold in this soggy little corner, but the undergrowth has risen up into a dense cage and the scrubby outline of the place has become much more interesting as it now enters its seventh summer without any grazing. I am particularly pleased to see flag iris invading the wetter areas, and there are signs that this half-acre experiment is very much “on the move”

So imagine my delight to find that the little wood has been adopted by a grasshopper warbler. One of those bizarre little birds has been singing in there for the last three nights, and I like to think that the thick, low cover will suit his purposes admirably. If you haven’t heard it before, listen HERE to a recording of their song – it’s an extraordinary sound for a bird to make, and can last in a continuous “reel” for minutes on end. As a “tasting note”, it is best enjoyed as an accompaniment to the sound of a roding woodcock.

Grasshopper warblers are quite common around the Chayne, particularly in scrubby corners of old forestry where grazing is light. They may be some of the most obscure birds it is possible to imagine, but it is extremely satisfying to find that my work has created some usable habitat for them. Perhaps if nothing else, this is a useful case study to show that all nature needs is a chance – I didn’t design the wood for these birds, but as soon as we took our foot off the agricultural pedal, interesting new things began to happen.

I produced this little vignette of a grasshopper warbler (above) in 2013 – the day after I finally realized what was making that extraordinary sound – the accompanying blog article provides some context for that strange discovery.


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