Vagrant Hume’s Warbler in Brandenburg

The decision to try the ornithologist’s luck despite the distance of 75 km was made quickly. A Hume’s Warbler (Phylloscopus humei) was reported on ornitho.de from the northern Spreewald. Oh, sure just a short sighting – and the bird is gone, I was thinking first. But the next day, the Hume’s Warbler was still hanging around the small village of Dannenreich, in the Spreewald. The attentive and happy first observer, Bodo Sonnenburg, was able to locate the Leaf Warbler on the first day between 08:50 a.m. and 09:05 a.m. by ist calls several times. Although the bird was approx. Only 10 to 15 meters away, it was difficult to see the bird in the willow bushes  and reeds on the opposite side of the Skabyer Torfgraben, which is a peat ditch.

Around 7:30 am – the sun was sending the first tentative rays from the east – I was standing at the point that had been identified as Brandenburg’s hotspot for the last two days. The Skabyer Torfgraben is approached from the village of Dannenreich via a dirt road. On the other, the southern side, there is a swamp that makes any access impossible. The Hume’s Warbler had been seen calling several times in the afternoon of the previous day in a Willow tree (Salix sp.) with a few broken branches. It was cold, the thermometer showed 1 ° C. A wonderful morning without wind and without clouds. Alone, the bird could not be seen. A Eurasian Robin (Erithacus rubecula) jumped calling through a dense willow bush, some Eastern Eurasian Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) were unmistakable in the alder crowns above me. But the Hume’s Warbler stayed hidden for the first 45 minutes. Then the message came on ornitho.de that the Hume’s Warbler had been seen again. Ok, so my position was the wrong one. A little later I found a group of ornithologists standing just 50 meters away on the Skaby peat ditch.

We only waited a short time together. Then, attracted by a characteristic call, not unlike that of a White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), a small, grayish looking bird – clearly a small warbler – could be seen in the backlight. Photos were out of the question. The Hume’s Warbler was later discovered deep down in the willow but disappeared again. Then, a little later, another Leaf Warbler, who at first called out quite persistently, and then the redemption when the Hume’s Warbler went looking for food in an Alder tree several times. The Alder was still thickly covered with leaves. From time to time the Hume’s Warbler could be seen between the leaves and branches. A few photos were then also possible.

My photographer location was privileged to be the only one present to have rubber boots, a little closer to the ditch and actually well suited for observation. However, the photo session was ended prematurely when, when swiveling the lens, one of the tripod legs lost its grip on the alder root in the ditch and I disappeared into the water with my right leg up to my waist.

A real and wet commitment to a rare bird. It was worth it!

It is interesting that there is currently an several sightings of Hume’s Warblers in Germany. At the end of October, a Hume’s Warbler from Helgoland was recorded, but recently also a Hume’s Warbler from the Netzener Wiesen (meadows) near Lehnin Monastery – about 100 km west of the location at Skabyer Torfgraben – was detected. Since the Hume’s Warbler was not reported again from the Netzener Wiesen, theoretically the currently observed Hume’s Warbler could be the same bird. That would be a remarkable coincidence, however. However, a sighting of a Hume’s Warbler from November 9, 2020 from the Ober-Hilbersheimer Plateau near Mainz is also remarkable.

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