Saturday 16 October 2010

Where do red breasted flycatchers go?

Red breasted flycatcher is not unheard of in Libya but has been rarely reported and even rarely photographed!  Yesterday I got lucky. I saw and photographed one at a well irrigated smallholding near Sultan. Sultan is 120 kilometres south west of Benghazi.

I love the way this small bird can make itself look bigger in a show of bravado by cocking its tail. This action reminds me of the similarly small scrub warbler.

red-breasted flycatcher, near Sultan, mid October

The bird breeds in central Europe eastwards and is very common in European Russia. Most research has been on Russian birds which winter in the Indian sub-continent. However, it has been breeding increasingly westward over the past 30 years and some are known to winter as far west as Sinai. 

frontal view of red-breasted flycatcher, near Sultan, mid October

I wonder how many now winter in north east Africa or perhaps it even winters in small numbers in Libya itself after all Sinai is climatically similar!

female red-breasted flycatcher hitches a lift near Kufra 

I searched the internet today and came across another picture of a red-breasted flycatcher in Libya. The circumstances are quite interesting. This picture is taken from a book "Incident at Jebel Sherif". It's author Kuno Gross (who like me often works in Libya) is interested in second world war action and is an expert on the Libyan desert war. While touring the Libyan desert for his book and other studies, a red-breasted flycatcher hitched a lift for 60 kilometres.

This is a little more evidence that my bird was not a vagrant but could be part of something bigger. Is Libya on a minor migration route for central European red-breasted flycatchers?

Yet another bird to watch over the coming months. My observations keep raising more questions than they solve!

PS: If you are interested in Kuno Gross's book -visit his website

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