African Desert Warbler - Sylvia deserti

On Wednesday 12 November 2014 Hans Zaal was inspecting the ditches in the polder Gnephoek (a large polder) north of Alphen aan de Rijn ZH. He suddenly found a pale bird with yellow eyes and did not know what it was, but suspected it could be a Desert Warbler Sylvia nana. He warned Adri de Groot, a well-known birder of this region and who has a very popular blog Vogeldagboek. Adri had found a Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka c 5 km west of Alphen aan de Rijn a few days earlier, but Adri's phonenumber had changed, so Hans could not reach him immediately. At home Hans identified the bird as an African Desert Warbler S deserti. A week later on 19 November Hans found the bird again and this time he had the right number of Adri and together they searched for the bird on 21 November. The weather was sunny and Adri managed to take several good pictures at close range. They also discussed the possibility to warn other birders, but they both thought the area is too sensitive for a large crowd and it seemed certainly not in the interest of the bird.
On Tuesday 25 November 2014 Adri decided to make the record public, as Hans en Adri could not found the bird on 22 and 23 November, so they believed the bird was gone. But in the meantime several birders had started looking in the general area and on the next day Rob Halff and Rutger Rotscheid found the bird back around noon and warned other birders. The owners of the area, Boerderij Landlust, were asked for permission to enter the meadows and they agree to open the area to the public
I heard the news at 12:00 hours, I picked up my son Bob from school and an hour later we entered the meadow and start to walk the 1 km from Boerderij landlust along muddy ditches, treacherous gates and bridges. We could see the bird at close range and witnessed the bird sitting on a pole (see Michel Veldt's picture below). The bird was seen by c 1000 birders till Sunday 30 November. On that day the owners decided it was better to close the polder again as bird flu had appeared at a farm nearby.

Note the sandy upperparts, grey neck, yellow eyes and legs; 26 November 2014, Alphen aan de Rijn ZH; © Michel Veldt.

Note the almost uniform tertial and t1 is not dark centered. The brown primaries suggest a first-year; 26 November 2014, Alphen aan de Rijn ZH; © Roelof de Beer.

Note the dainty size; 28 November 2014, Alphen aan de Rijn ZH; © Cor Hopman.

28 November 2014, Alphen aan de Rijn ZH; © Gerard Troost.

It was accepted as the first for the Netherlands and the most northern record ever. African Desert Warblers are not that sedentary as the common belief was and there are now several records on the Canary Islands, Madeira, Cape Verde, Malta, southern Italy, Spain and the most north record in Lombardy in Northern Italy.

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