On the 14th of February, 2016, a rare leaf warbler from the difficult Phylloscopus genus was found at the Broome Bird Observatory (BBO) by Wardens Nigel and Jaime Jackett (click here to see their checklist). The leaf warblers are such a tricky group of songbirds that they often can’t be identified to species by appearances alone – it is their calls that separate them.
Unbelievably, the leaf warbler at the BBO was calling and singing frequently from the deciduous shrubs it foraged among. Using the voice memos app on their iPhone, Nigel and Jaime were able to record its song – a crucial piece of evidence! The song was analysed and compared to the various songs of leaf warblers from Asia. One fit perfectly: the Kamchatka Leaf Warbler!
Leaf warblers are generally long-distance migrants, with the Kamchatka Leaf Warbler breeding in far eastern Russia, and migrating as far south as Indonesia. The individual that appeared at the Broome Bird Observatory was the first of its species to be identified on the Australian mainland (it has previously only been recorded on Ashmore Reef). With many species of leaf warblers migrating to Indonesia, it is only a matter of time before another new species shows up in Australia. Exploring the eBird database could provide clues as to which one will turn up next!
~contributed by Nigel Jackett