Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)

A surprising find during this Atlas period was the Yellow-browed Warbler on 27 February 2007, at an unlikely site, a Borough Council work depot on the edge of Crewe (SJ65Y)! It was in a hawthorn hedgerow with some larger trees covered in ivy, with the bird first being noticed by its call, then watched for some time as it accompanied two Blue Tits. It is possible that the warbler had been present for most of the month as the observer (Mark Stubbs) had heard a similar call on 3 February.

This is the first ever county record outside the autumn migration period: all previous county records, from the first in 1973 onwards, have been from 21 September, with most in October and three November records. One of these, in a Parkgate garden on 26 and 30 November 1994, falls within our defined winter period. This species does have a history of being found in sites away from the normal rarity hot-spots: at least six of the previous Yellow-browed Warblers in the county have been in gardens.

Being insectivorous all year round, Yellow-browed Warblers have to quit their breeding grounds, in Russia east of the Urals, as autumn sets in, and they head for their wintering area in south-east Asia. Some apparently undertake ‘reverse migration’ and every year hundreds, or thousands, reach northern Europe. Yellow-browed Warblers are unusual in winter, but a few individuals have been recorded in Britain, mostly on the south coast (Migration Atlas).