Monday, 5 March 2012

Thrushes and redstarts at Al Baha

This blog is one in a series looking at my birding experience last weekend in a single valley at Baha city. It had many exciting birds, all within walking distance of my hotel.

Today I can tell you it had more than its fair share of interesting members of the thrush family including one endemic, two lifers for me and one bird considered to be a vagrant in southern Saudi Arabia.  

In the middle level of the valley, barely 250 metres from my hotel I saw the first (and then second) little rock thrush of my life.

little rock thrush, Baha

In the same part of the valley were several black redstart. Confusingly most of males looked very similar to a little rock thrush and also needed to be looked at closely to differentiate from a common redstart.

This was because they were of the semi-rufus sub species which summers in the Near East.

male black redstart

I have included a second picture of the black redstart at a different angle to show that its black bib extends below the throat. This is a feature of semi-rufus black redstart but not of any common redstart. The Collins guide for European birds says that semi-rufus black redstart doesn't have a white panel on its wings like the European black redstart. However as my first picture proves it certainly has a paler flash.

second angle on black redstart

Female semi-rufus black redstart are much greyer and washed out than the male.

female semi-rufus black redstart

The first bird I saw at the start of the weekend in very windy conditions was a blue rock thrush at the top end of the valley. However the next day I saw four blue rock thrush together very near the main road to the hotel in the middle level (1700 metres)of the valley. Four is the largest number of blue rock thrush I have ever seen together and yet it is unlikely to have been a family group.

blue rock thrush on a wall next to a main road at first light

There were two other thrushes in the valley. One was the endemic Yemen thrush (and a lifer for me) for which I don't have a picture. It looks very like a female blackbird and appeared to be quite common but shy, darting low between trees and bushes.

song thrush

The second was most unexpected. It was a song thrush.  This is along way south for one to winter although I have since been told they are not extremely rare here. However, I wanted to be completely sure of my identification so I posted the picture to the Bird Forum web site where the correspondents confirmed with my view.

This thrush was a real bonus to my trip list.

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