James Lowen 

A few more flight views, and it was time to return to the car, pay the daughter her dues, and head home. Bet that's the last UK Aquatic I ever see.


31 August 2023 Aquatic

Aquatic Warbler is a rum one. When I was a teenage birder, seemingly all you had to do to see it was travel to Cornwall in August, and walk around the reserve at Marazion Marsh. Sure enough, aged 17, when spending the best part of a month in the south-west, I saw seven in a day at Marazion, then five in a day a fortnight later - and found one in South Devon in-between times. Such heady days are long gone. The bird has declined dramatically on breeding grounds, and is now considered globally threatened. Having been a regular, if scarce-ish, migrant to the UK, it is now not only firmly on the BB rarities list, but the scant handful of records annually always seem to be in a ringer's net (and, if not, they are one-day birds). Accordingly, several 30-something twitchers I know have yet to see one in the UK - and I feared I never would see one again. 

I can't remember the last twitchable individual relatively close to where I've been living that was seeable in the field, rather than a ringer's hand. Perhaps 2006 at Seasalter, Kent - but I was living in Argentina then. So when news of one at Landguard Point finally reached me mid-afternoon yesterday, I decided to 'incentivise' my daughter to join me in the car and see it. Landguard was already on my mind that morning, because Will Blame had sent me a photo of an interesting white butterfly that showed some characteristics of Southern Small White (an expected addition to the UK Lepidoptera). There wasn't quite enough in the photo to say one way or the other, so Will said he'd go and have another luck. He did... and found the Aquatic Warbler!

Initial views were brief, and in flight - but the general pallor and mental mantle stripes could be seen (and, on the camera screen, the lovely striped rump too). Then the bird leapt up onto a dead umbellifer and showed very well as the shutters clicked (or metaphorically so on mirrorless cameras) - before resuming its skulking preferences at the segue between marram grass and bramble, where it showed gave only occasional glimpses of its strikingly pallid form and zinger of a central crown stripe.