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Valira Torrent:   Contents | Subject index

Perforation image from Serif Art Gallery. © Serif Inc, 1996

Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 14, pp4-5 (Oct 1981).

Copyright notice

Nature Protection Series 1981

Bonelli's Warbler Wallcreeper

by W. D. Bent

June 20th 1981 saw the issue of two more stamps in the Nature Protection series, this time depicting birds and, being the product of the French Post Office in Andorra, as one would expect, the designs are again by the well known European ornithologist Hermann Heinzel. Both stamps are printed in photogravure. The total The printing amounts to 625,000 sets and is perf 13.

The 1f20 value shows a Bonelli's Warbler (Phylloscopus Bonelli) a member of the same family as the willow and wood warblers and chiff-chaff. From bill-tip to tail-tip they measure, when full grown, about 4½ inches (11.5cm) and usually live in dense tree foliage, mostly dry pine or deciduous forests, in hilly or mountainous regidns. They are found in much of Spain, France, Italy, parts of Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey and North Africa.

All leaf warblers are between 4¼ and 5 inches (11-12.5cm) in length and are basically greenish or yellowish-greenish in colour, their tails appear to be slightly forked and all have the habit of flicking their wings and tail, particularly when feeding. Bonelli's warbler is greyer in colour than most warblers, with pale greyish-brown upper parts, paler head and whitish underparts. There is some brighter yellow at the carpal joint and yellowish wing patches, and also a yellowish rump patch. The birds' call is a soft "hou-eet" more clearly disyllabic than a willow warbler, and a loose trilling song, all on one note, that is more musical than a wood warbler. All warblers are very active birds with slender bills and are insectivorous. They usually nest on or near the ground in dense vegetation.

The illustration is up to the usual high standard of the previous bird stamps but has been printed in far too dark a colouring. The underparts and the lightness round the eye are well detailed but the remainder should be of much lighter greens, greys and yellowish tones.

The 1f40 value shows a Wallcreeper (Tichodroma Muraria) a member of the Sittidae family, dominated by Nuthatches and should not be confused with treecreepers (Certhia Familiaris), a brown bird of a different family.

The wallcreeper, when full grown, measures 6½ inches (16.5cm) and is very colourful with brilliant crimson on rounded blackish wings, greyer upperparts, white spots on the four primary feathers of each wing. The throat and breast are black in the summer but whitish in the winter. They have a short tail and long slender curved bill. They have a spasmodic butterfly-like flight and their broad wings are constantly flicked while seeking food on rock faces or old buildings. They are insectivorous and, as their bill shape indicates, well able to extract small insects from crevices in rock faces, earth cliffs and old or ruined buildings, which are their usual habitat. Wallcreepers breed in recesses or wider crevices in the same type of environment and are found in areas up to the snow line in mountains, but migrate to lower rocky valleys and foothills in the winter.

They are not particularly plentiful in number but can be found in the Pyrenees and some areas of Northern Spain, Northern Italy, the Balkans and Near East.

Again the design on the stamps is excellent but the printing is very dark. The crimson of the wings and white spots show well and the blackness of the throat well defined, but the head and shoulders are normally somewhat of a paler grey in colour. Nevertheless, two excellent bird stamps for the Andorran aviary and two unusual birds for the thematic ornithologist.

Whilst on the subject of Andorran birds, may I mention for the philatelic ornithologist, one particular field guide for bird illustrations, general details, distribution maps etc. among many excellent publications, for one special reason. The guide is "The Birds of Britain and Europe" published by Collins of l4 St. James Place, London S.W.1. This is a first class guide, of pocket size, with over 1,000 bird illustrations in colour and some 825 distribution maps. The special mention of this book is because all the bird illustrations are by Hermann Heinzel, the designer of the current Nature Protection Series of birds (and the previous bird stamps of earlier Nature Protection series too). I trust that the publishers will forgive me for quoting from their notes on the book's cover that Mr. Heinzel was born in Poland in 1939, brought up in West Germany, became a keen bird watcher and joined the staff of Bonn Museum, Bird Room. The guide is his first major publication but more are planned for the future by the same publishers. He is said to divide his time between Germany and Andorra, with frequent visits to London.

An interesting "Andorra" connection and a very interesting book well worth its reasonable price for the bird enthusiast.

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