Warblers have been a topic of conversation among birding folk in Oxfordshire recently who have noticed a depletion of numbers with the once common willow warbler now markedly reduced and even the most common of the warblers the chiffchaff not as abundant as it once was.

The other warblers you are most likely to encounter on your countryside walks are blackcap, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, garden warbler, grasshopper warbler (Otmoor is a good site for this bird with a song often likened to the reeling in of a fisherman’s line) and the two warblers of riparian habitat reed warbler and sedge warbler both struggling because of the flooding and consequent washing away of eggs and nestlings.

We can attribute the shift of the jet stream for this year’s continuing catastrophic wet state of affairs, with the resultant shortage of essential insect nutrition, but climate change and problems back in their mainly African wintering grounds are probably also a factor.

A reason for chiffchaff and blackcap faring better than most other warblers is almost certainly their increasing choice and ability to overwinter in this country, the chiffchaff using a source of insects available throughout the year in places such as sewage works and the blackcap having a more varied diet than other warblers and making use of shrubbery berries, and the fruit and fat you and I as garden feeders leave out for garden birds.

If you are lucky enough to attract blackcap to your garden the male is easily recognisable by, as its name implies, a jet black top to its head. Take care though for the female has a lovely shade of chestnut brown as her distinguishing head covering, that will confirm correct identification.