A few weeks ago, I was asking questions about warblers, as I had been hearing one very loud and clear when I was out gardening. This was one which often arrives surprisingly early in the far North of Scotland, so early you tend to wonder what on earth in the way of insects it can be finding to eat. This is the chiffchaff, which is about as unassuming as the willow warbler to look at, and would probably go unnoticed if it were not for its insistent song. The name "chiffchaff" I have heard derived from this song, but to me it is far crisper than that would suggest, more determined, like the "bink! bink!" of a chaffinch. That song, anyway, I have not heard in the last few days, suggesting perhaps that the bird had moved on, maybe further north, although it seems very early and risky to do so.
This least weekend I spent almost entirely in the garden as it was really spring-like, (almost summery, really, by UK standards!), and I had noticed that plants are beginning to grow. I had new beds to dig out (hard work in our rock-like soil), but that labour was beguiled by a lot more birdsong, most noticeably this time from another warlber, the blackcap. I am no good at describing birdsong, but that of the blackcap is most melodious and could be heard from quite a few of the mature hedges around the gardens nearby.
Today was noticeably cooler, and the birds quieter, but when I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing up (thank heavens for a sink with a view!), I had excellent views of four or five blackcaps foraging about on the ground under the bushes in the front garden - which suggests that early in the year the warbler diet is a lot more omnivorous than their narrow, insect-catching bills might imply. I think it may have been a small group just coming into adult plumage - at least two males, one not so clearly marked, and one definite female, the brown of her crown almost startling when next to the other birds' black caps. They were far from sleek and slim, all noticeably puffed up against the morning cold. I did check them very carefully, but none of them had the red rim to the eye which can be so clearly seen in Isobel's lovely picture of the Sardinian warbler! But a nice view, nonetheless.