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Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana) on Saltholm, Denmark

  Ørkensanger (Sylvia nana) på Saltholm

Desert Warbler. Photo, 14K Jpeg       Photo 1.

Photo 1 in double size (74K Jpeg)

Sunday, 10-May-1998, a Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana, Ørkensanger) was observed on the island of Saltholm, Denmark. It has been approved by Sjældenhedsudvalget (The Danish Rarities Committee) and is the third Danish record of Desert Warbler.

The discovery

Sunday morning, 10-May-1998, ten birders went to the island of Saltholm on a field trip arranged by Dansk Ornitologisk Forening (Danish Ornithological Society).

The bird was discovered by the trip leader, Jan Nielsen, on the north side of the "Barakke Bro" pier immediately after the arrival to Saltholm around 9:45 a.m.

Initially the bird was assumed to be a Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin, Havesanger), however in a most unusual environment - stones and seawrack. Then I noticed that the bird had pale legs, Garden Warblers have dark legs. We observed that the bird had bright yellow iris ("Hawk's eye") and a reddish tail. Michael Delpierre said: "I'm almost sure this is a real rarity!"

After consulting Lars Jonsson's field guide on the birds of Europe, Michael Delpierre identified the bird as a Desert Warbler.


Desert Warbler. Photo, 16K Jpeg       Photo 2.
Note the pattern on the secondaries. Yellowish legs. Dark alula.

Larger section of photo 2 (86K Jpeg)
Desert Warbler. Photo, 19K Jpeg       Photo 3.
Note the color of the eye and the bill. The lower mandible was more pale than the upper mandible.

Larger section of photo 3 (87K Jpeg)

Photo 4 (20K Jpeg). On the color print, the reddish color on rump and tail was clearly visible. Unfortunately the reddish color disappeared when the photo was scanned.

Saltholm. Photo, 17K Jpeg       The "Barakke Bro" pier on the island of Saltholm. The Desert Warbler was moving around in the area in the lower left of the photo. This photo was taken 06-Sep-1998, not the day the bird was observed.


I have received 7 comments from other net.birders, 3 from Denmark, 2 from England, 1 from France, and 1 from Bahrain. Thanks! All agree on Desert Warbler, and those who have made comments on the race agree on the eastern race nana. All records of Desert Warbler in Northern Europe have been nana's.

The bird is the first Danish spring observation of Desert Warbler. I've been told, that spring records are extremely rare, it's probably only the second or third spring observation of Desert Warbler in Northern Europe.

Therefore it's quite interesting that 20-May-1998, a Desert Warbler was observed in Bohuslän, Sweden, about 350 km (220 miles) NNW of Saltholm. Same bird?

Text and photos: Stig Linander, created: 1998-05-20, last revised: 1999-11-23