Challenging Chiffchaffs

The Dutch are more progressive when it comes to taxonomy – with an emphasis on splitting – then other Europeans. For instance we recognize about 6 species of ‘Yellow’ Wagtails (Gele kwikstaarten)and 3 species of Brent Geese (Rotganzen). A recent addition to the Dutch list is the ‘tristis’ (sub)species of Common Chiffchaff (Tjiftjaf), Siberian Chiffchaffs (Siberische tjiftjaf). This Siberian population of the Collybita superspecies has a call and song and some key features in its plumage that differentiate it from our nominate form of Chiffchaff.

 

Last Saturday Camilla and I decided to have a go at the two Siberian Chiffchaffs near Weesp, Noord-Holland. First however we tried one that was found that very morning at a cemetery just west of Amsterdam.

We looked for half an hour, but as we could only find a Common Chiffchaff (Tjiftjaf) we decided to continue to Weesp.

 

Upon arrival we immediately found a flock of about 6 Chiffchaffs that gave excellent close-up views at eyelevel. 2 Birds stood out from the rest because of the clean white underparts – and more importantly –  a clean white vent and grayish upperparts contrasting with olive-tinted primaries and tail. Both these birds showed a hint of a pale wingbar and had black legs and feet and a strikingly dark bill contrasting with a pale-grey face. To complete the identification both birds gave their strikingly ‘spring-chicken’ like calls.

 

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Siberian Chiffchaff, note the clean white underparts and contrasting black legs and bill, by Camilla Dreef

 

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And a Common Chiffchaff for Comparison… Note the lighter legs and yellowish tone to its plumage,

by Camilla Dreef

 

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Siberian Chiffchaff, note the clean white vent and contrasting black legs, by Camilla Dreef

 

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And a Common Chiffchaff for comparison, note the yellowish tone to the vent contrasting with the whitish belly,

by Camilla Dreef

 

After last week’s gull-fest this was Camilla’s second introduction to birding 2.0 and again she killed it 🙂 so we ended the day’s birding with a relaxing stroll through the Diemer Vijhoek where we found all 3 species of merganser  – Common Merganser (Grote zaagbek), Red-breasted Merganser (Middelste zaagbek) and Smew (Nonnetje) – foraging out on the IJ-river!

 

Happy Birding!

Arjan Dwarshuis
Arjan Dwarshuis
birding@arjandwarshuis.com