The warbler may have kept its low
profile among bird communities along the Wakhan and Pamir rivers if not for
WCS’s Robert Timmins, who caught the bird’s distinctive song on tape in 2008.
Timmins at first assumed he was observing and listening to Blyth’s reed
warblers. But after examining bird skins at a natural history museum in London,
Timmins knew the birds he had heard and saw were of a different species.
The next summer in June 2009, WCS
researchers returned to where Timmins’ had conducted his surveys. Playing the
birdsongs he had recorded, they lured the mysterious birds into mist nets to
examine them. The birds flew in from all directions. In the end, the team
caught almost 20 of the winged wonders. They collected feathers to analyze the
species’ DNA and compared the birds’ physical characteristics and measurements
with those of museum specimens. These warblers of the Wakhan and the
long-billed reed warbler were a match.
With its identity solved, its
birdsong recorded, and its breeding grounds pinpointed, WCS conservationists
have positioned themselves to learn even more about the species and about the
habitat it needs to survive.