Friday, December 2, 2011

Israel - Grey Hypocolius - Nov 27th

Despite every intention to leave Eilat early in the morning, Birdfinders first attempt at the long drive across the Negev was nicely interrupted by a timely phone call from Barak Granit just as we were leaving town. Eilat pulled us back like a magnet when Barak said he had a male Grey Hypocolius at the birdwatching park. It was a blatant twitch! Within five minutes were on site, first finding Barak and Rami, and then finding the bird. It was flighty and difficult to observe at times, but ultimately gave wonderful views. Its presence was often betrayed by mobbing bulbuls which, for some reason, wouldn't leave it alone. We all enjoyed fantastic views of this great rarity, and there was still more magic to come. A flurry of thrushes included mostly Song Thrushes but also a Redwing, the latter being only my third ever in Israel. An Olive-backed Pipit called from the same spot and it sounds like we narrowly missed a Rose-coloured Starling seen by Barak and Rami just as we arrived. After twenty or so minutes in the area, it was with great reluctance that we eventually left Eilat for the 300 Km drive NW across the Negev leaving only the imagination to wonder what else we might be leaving behind!

Grey Hypocolius - male, IBRCE birdwatching park, Eilat. November 27th, 2011. Rare and unpredictable, Hadoram Shirihai documents only four birds in the 'Birds of Israel' published in 1996. It has probably been slightly less than annual since that time. Almost all of the reports have come from the Eilat area, but occasionally as far north as Samar and Yotvata. On a personal level, this was my first since 2000 despite annual visits to Israel. The image below shows the ever attendant White-spectacled Bulbuls which seemed to harass the hypocolius where ever it went.

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