Some of the most instructive birds I have seen this autumn have been ‘little brown jobs’. For example, it took me two attempts to identify this Marsh Warbler at Quendale – partly because views on the first occasion were poor, partly because it looked ‘warmer’ than I was expecting. In fact its plumage tones are within the normal range of variation of 1CY Marsh (compare with the excellent IL plate in BWP below). In addition to the features visible in the image, including long wing-point similar in length to tertials and pale-tipped primaries, prolonged observation revealed the following pointers to Marsh in probable order of importance: soft ‘tucc’ call, quite thick-looking pale yellow legs and feet, and relatively short-looking blunt-tipped bill. It is worth noting that all these features are quite subtle, but taken together they point strongly to Marsh and away from Reed (including fuscus).
Other notable little brown jobs this autumn have included the Buff-bellied Pipit and this Thrush Nightingale at Sandgarth which gave an unusual opportunity to study an autumn bird at close quarters – the dark crescents on the tips of the undertail-coverts were quite obvious on this individual.