Monday 23 February 2009

Near East Chiffchaffs

I got rather confused by the Chiffchaffs in Turkey and Syria. I saw the odd Chiffy around Adana which looked and sounded like the collybita that I am familiar with. In Syria the first thing I noticed about the Chiffy's was the call- a simple mournful note (tristis like?) quite unlike what I am familiar with. Yoav Perlman from Israel informs me that most of the Chiffchaffs in the region are abietinus and the unusual call which recalls tristis could represent some kind of clinal variation. Apparently there are populations of Chiffchaff which move through the near east and winter in East Africa and other populations which winter in the region. There is a lot of biometric and tonal variation and some genetic studies reveal little in the way of distinct forms.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Monday 16 February 2009

More on Armenian Gull (click on images to view)

Click on images to see the birds: Top to bottom: 1st winter, 1st winter, adult and 1st winter, 2nd winter, 2nd winter, 3rd win, 3rd win and 2nd winter, 2nd winters and mainly 1st winter mixed flock.

This adult bird shows a pretty distinctive wing formula which is typical of Armenian Gull (Malling Olsen and Larsson pg 26 and pg 300-307). Only one mirror on p10 and black extending all the way to the primary greater coverts on p10-p9 (p8) ((p7?)) on atleast the outer webs (outers and inners on p10-p9 (p8?). This produces a 'step' in the black on the wing- from p8/p7 onwards. The black on the remaining primaries also extends to p4 and sometimes p3. To me that is quite a distinctive and arresting wing pattern. Combined with the size (smaller than Yellow-legged), the dark eye in adult plumage, the four coloured bill (pale tip, red gonys, black ring and yellow basal section) and the relatively dark upperparts- this is pretty distinctive gull (most similar to 'Steppe Gull'). There are suspected recent (last few days/weeks) claims of this 'species' in both France and Italy.

Wednesday 11 February 2009


Great Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Black-headed Gull (top) Caspian Gull (bottom)

Apparently I was in a town called Iskenderun in Southern Turkey. Did some gull watching in the harbour. Another Kittiwake, an adult Little Gull, 40+ Mediterranean Gull, 6 Great Black-headed Gull, 400+ Black-headed Gull, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull (looked like intermedius type) and a few large white headed gulls which I am still working on- I think Yellow-legged and Caspian together but trying to rule out some of the smaller looking ones as being Armenian Gull.

Thanks to Yoav from Israel who informed me that there had been an influx in Kittiwakes into the Eastern Mediterranean this year which puts those Kittiwake sightings in context.

Visiting Syria?

Palmyra and the Bald Ibises are a highlight of any trip to Syria. The Palmyra Society for the Protection of Environment and Wildlife can arrange guides, accommodation, food etc and they have a new website which they can be contacted by:

Totally recommend birding this area using these guys. I had a great time. And there is a pic of me in the news section- 'in the field' (I use this phrase in its broadest sense).

Kittiwakes in the Med

Came across a group of eight Kittiwakes feeding close to the shore near Ugarhit in Syria. Presumably a rarity in these parts.

Dead Sea and Dana and a series of unfortunate events

Unfortunately most of my time in Jordan was spent sick but still managed to bag Fan-tailed Raven, Tristram's Grackle, Scrub Warbler, White-crowned Black Wheatear, Blackstart, Palestine Sunbird, Mourning Wheatear and Rock Martin in the vicinty of public conveniences.

Also due to an urgent situation our trip has been cut short and we need to return home.

Should be able to clean up on some of the birds I missed by a visit to Palestine/Israel which I hope to time during the migration season to witness the magic of the eastern flyway.

Top to bottom: Blackstart, Palestine Sunbird and Griffon Vulture