I have been listening to the sounds of Chiffchaffs since mid March but in the past few days this has been surpassed by the newly arrived BLACKCAP (Sylvia atricapilla) and today was no exception when I paid a brief visit to Epsom Common. This songster usually delivers its warble from a dense and concealed perch anything from 4 to 13 metres above he ground. One of four males I saw and heard today was a little more conspicuous but I only had a few moments to capture a passable image before the presence of another walker prompted him to seek another more distant and hidden song post.
Probably the most easily identifiable of all the European warblers; dirty greyish-brown above with lighter olive-grey underparts plus the male has a very distinctive black scullcap (reddish-brown on the female). It is principally a species of open forest with a lush understory but also colonises riverside woodland, olive groves, parks, gardens and urban areas.
Full on vocals.
The song, often confused with the Garden Warbler, starts with a noticeably mumbling, uncertain beginning then switches to a rich fluty warble with a very strong whistling finish. Like other Sylvia warblers it also produces a variable sub-song of squeaky rasping sounds including immitations of it's cousins.
I have read that males with a high song rate; 160 to 180 phrases per hour, are those that posses the best territories, with a high density of suitable vegetation for nesting. Those with phrase rates of 80 to 100 per hour probably hail from territories with more open vegetation and therefore are more vunerable to predation. Females obviously chose the best mate based on the information honestly disclosed by these song phrase rates but that is not everything. Males that sing a lot apparently contribute less to feeding the young so a female choosing a lower quality territory may well gain more assistance from her partner in bringing up her chicks.
Now I wait for the others to arrive......Garden Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroats. FAB