17 April 2014

Four Hypocolius a new ‘patch’ species – Dhahran Hills

My evening trip to the ‘patch’ on 15 April produce a very nice surprise when I found a single female Hypocolius in a depression with a few bushes and shrubs in. This area had been good for birds in recent days with plenty of Barred Warblers and when I got there I could again see it was alive with birds. Most were Barred Warblers but then my attention was drawn to an odd looking bird sitting on top of a bush some distance away. On looking through my binoculars I could immediately see it was a female Hypocolius a bird I had not seen until then on the ‘patch’ or Saudi Arabia for that matter. Hypocolius is an uncommon winter visitor from late October to early April, mainly to Central Arabia, Northern Hejaz, Hejaz and the northern Red Sea, but it is relatively common in the right places in KSA with birds seen throughout the winter in Riyadh. but as I don’t ‘twitch’ birds I had not seen one. Mid-April is quite late in the season for seeing the species but these birds are definitely on migration back to their breeding grounds. To me finding good birds on my local ‘patch’ is what birding is all about and this sighting left me extremely happy. I called Phil who was just down the road and after looking at the bird for some time, hearing it calling and flying about we left it in peace. I said to Phil, half joking, all the calling was probably to attract its lost friends to the same area and as it turned out Phil and I at the end of the evening, when it was almost dark, found four birds together, three females and a male. Phil told me that he had seen Hypocolius before but as far as I am aware this is only the second record of the species for the camp? The photos are not the best as the light was poor, especially when we had all four together but, hopefully, they will stay around to allow better photos to be obtained.