Schooled again

There really is no point in trying to compete with the Ainsdale Dusky Warbler for fieldcraft supremacy – it has a black belt in hide and seek, a doctorate in skulking and a PhD in elusive.
That said, it treated me to several prolonged views this afternoon in the usual area of hawthorns along the flooded eastern side of Ainsdale NNR’s grazing enclosure fence.
The wintering Dusky is a fine little critter, and given it melts into thin air for long periods (going unseen and unheard for hours at a time), I felt privileged to be given the chance to appreciate the nuances of its frankly awkward behaviour.
And on a chilled February day, the urgency of a more normal autumn encounter felt a world away.
The bird tends to call most when in the air, and then it flies low to the Creeping Willow, in a determined, yet at the same time oddly faltering way, its tail flicking downwards as it goes, giving it a stuttering action.
The warbler always looks dark in flight – the clue is in the name.
It hugs the contours of the dune ridges and vegetation when it moves, but when sneaking along the ground and lower branches of the Creeping Willow beds the bird is generally silent, confident that its whereabouts are impossible to pinpoint.
When it is feeding in the hawthorns it flicks its tail and wings more often than a Dunnock, and can appear greyish or very dark depending on the light.
Its bright truncated supercilium and pale sulphur vent and undertail are usually obvious.
A few Goldcrests, seven Reed Buntings, Goldfinches, Robin, Wrens, three Stonechats and up to nine Meadow Pipits meant Dusky Town was fairly busy today, and sometimes it was hard to pick up its subdued “tack tack” call when Stonechats, Wrens and Robins were doing the business and the Goldfinches were twittering away too.
A Chiffchaff was calling nearby, feeding on a shaded bank and considerably showier than the Dusky…