Bird song (23) – Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler. Photo: Tim Melling

I was relieved to find that Tim Melling (whose images grace these ‘song’ blogs) had photographed a Garden Warbler because not many photographers bother with this species; as Tim writes, its ‘distinguishing feature is that it has no distinguishing features’. The specific name borin apparently comes from a belief that this bird had a lot to do with oxen, bos in Latin, but some say that it got its nametag from being the boring borin warbler.

Garden Warblers seem to have arrived early this year, several friends have heard and seen them already and here in Northamptonshire the first bird arrived this year on 7 April, three days earlier than any previous record.

And this is the species whose song can easily be confused with that of its close relative the Blackcap.

Here’s a reminder of a Blackcap song; this one from Northern Ireland;

It’s melodious and short. Agreed?

The short phrases of the Blackcap song provide one useful mnemonic for remembering a difference between it and Garden Warbler; Blackcaps, starting with ‘B’, have Brief songs whereas Garden Warblers, starting with ‘G’, Go on a bit.

Here are some Garden Warblers, going on a bit. First, one from France:

and now another;

and finally one from the UK:

They do go on a bit, and are rather scratchier than Blackcaps. In many ways the songs are very different, but you may come across a Blackcap that sounds quite like a Garden Warbler and vice versa.

Blackcaps get to us earlier by usually a good 10 days than Garden Warblers and so there is usually a period when one is hearing those short melodic songs before the longer, more jangly songs of the Garden Warbler join in. But every year, I always want to see my first Garden Warbler of the year, not just hear it, just to be sure. I’m almost always right but now and again a scratchy Blackcap leads me astray.

It will be some time before I hear a Garden Warbler I fear as I’ve never heard one within walking distance of my home.


2 Replies to “Bird song (23) – Garden Warbler”

  1. I find I have to re-learn the two every year. Ham Wall – walking along the canal – is particularly good for Garden Warblers.

  2. I heard my first Blackcap a week or so ago and am eagerly waiting for Garden Warblers so I can put Mark’s tips into practice. Previously. I struggled to tell the two apart without a confirmed sighting. Lovely songs, both of them. Thoroughly enjoying this series thank you.

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