Wednesday 1 May 2013

Slow motion migration

The migration seems to be in slow motion in the Riyadh this spring and its because of the much wetter and cooler weather in the area than is typical. For example we another thunderstorm last night and temperatures today are 8C below the seasonal norm.

On my walk to work through the small university farm, probably as a result of this weather, I am seeing birds which I would have expected to be in their breeding grounds still around. There is also a high density of warblers which are still arriving and less have moved on.

white throated robin

Yesterday I saw a white throated robin and heard and saw a singing (!) common nightingale They don't often sing here but this one obviously flt comfortable. I thought I had seen the last of both species this spring but I was wrong.

lesser grey shrike

Despite the large number of passage birds, over the past few days since I last mentioned the walk I have only seen two new ones on the patch. These are lesser grey shrike and eastern olivaceous warbler.

two of the five lesser grey shrike on my walk this morning

Indeed there were five lesser grey shrike around this morning alongside three red backed shrike and a woodchat shrike.

Eastern olivaceous warbler on the farm

I find that eastern olivaceous warbler and the related Upcher's warbler have two distinct poses. There can be quite hunched and look quite fat (above) but also they have this ability to stretch and then they look quite elongated (below).  The two pictures are of the same bird.

second view of eastern olivaceous warbler

There was an Upcher's warbler on the farm yesterday too.

Upcher's warbler

Among the warblers, I have been noticing a preponderance of female common whitethroat whereas earlier in the month they had been male. However I have checked research on sylvia migration. As far as I can see no one has reported  any gender differences for migration time (unlike for wheatears and buntings for example). Indeed work on blackcaps has specifically stated that there are no timing differences.

female common whitethroat

There are lots of willow warbler about and one or two chiffchaff too.

female common whitethroat

Once again I have still been seeing whinchat.
Of course, there are waves contining waves of European bee-eater "visiting" the bee research centre and gorging themselves.

European bee-eater

Tonight I am flying to Abha. It will be cooler than Riyadh but it looks like the weather will hold and the birding conditions should be good.

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