Birders from all over flock to spot the rare marsh warbler

TOP SPOT A marsh warbler is thought to have been seen in Gosport
TOP SPOT A marsh warbler is thought to have been seen in Gosport

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If you are driving south through Gosport and passing Fort Brockhurst to your left, you might see a group looking intently at a willow tree by the edge of the moat.

Why? Well, last week, early on Wednesday morning, there was a report of a marsh warbler.

The marsh warbler is a very scarce bird for the UK and it had been discovered singing by the moat at Fort Brockhurst, near the busy A32 roundabout in Gosport.

Birders from all parts of Hampshire and neighbouring counties flocked to view the bird and doubts about its identity started to grow.

Now, nearly a week later, blogs and forums are awash with facts and arguments as to whether this tiny little bird, which has flown several thousand miles to be here, is in fact a marsh warbler or its closely-related lookalike, the more common reed warbler.

Both marsh and reed warblers are roughly sparrow-sized birds, sporting brown upper parts and pale buffish under parts.

These summer visitors are notoriously difficult to separate from each another, particularly in the field.

However, both species are reliably identified from one another by their song, which is completely different. Or so you would think!

As the name suggests, reed warblers tend to live in reed beds and marsh warblers like ditches or soggy wasteland according to some books, but to be honest, these birds can turn up in some unusual places when migrating.

I took a look at this bird, which allowed me to get within 20 feet of it and my heart lies with the conclusion that it is a marsh warbler, although many would disagree and claim otherwise.

I’m sure this debate will go on for a long time to come.