…hits 5th gear. Generally the best thing to do when things slacken off a bit, as they inevitably do after a run like last Saturday – Sunday is to find somewhere else to point your bins. So I did that at the end of the week and had a late start on Saturday after a 20-hour day away on the Friday. However my glamorous assistant had been out keeping an eye on things for me in my absence and found what sounded like it had to be a White-throated Robin on Friday morning, albeit best seen from the back of a horse. Even as late as 0930 next morning, a stealthy approach on foot was tolerated and that was Saturday’s first, if not quite best, bird well and truly in the bag. Another one followed Saturday late afternoon, and a third on Monday morning; I’ve now seen more of these this year than in all springs 2007-2011 combined, bar 2008 when, at exactly the same time, we had a glut, reaching up to 5 per day. These robins were part of a real flood of birds to hit the island this weekend, with some marked surges in numbers: Ortolans and Nightingales suddenly becoming common after a very lean spring so far, lots of Sylvia warblers, including several Barred singing daily, over 10 Rock Thrush in the last three days and Spotted Flycatchers really getting going, plus the season’s first Roller, Whinchat and Common Whitethroat. Shrike flavours have reached 7, with the first Lesser Grey and Red-backed overlapping with late a Woodchat and Steppe Grey. Along with the robins, there has been a fair sprinkling of local scarcities: another Cuckoo (grey this time), Turtle Dove (I still have less than 10 island records for this one), Wryneck (4th this year: more than ever) and even a Wood Sandpiper – fairly straightforward in autumn but very sparse in spring. Best of all was a female Quail that I found gliding in over the canopy and then had at 10 feet for 15 minutes and second male Semi-collared Flycatcher, present 3 days and counting.
Proof that I could do no wrong came on Sunday afternoon, chasing the flycatcher, I ran into two Red-whiskered Bulbuls, a celebrated local denizen of Category C that would have been declared extinct at least a year ago had one not mysteriously been seen once last October. But not again until now; these were my first since May 2009. It was on my target list, but only with some misgivings. But with Baillon’s Crake and even a Radde’s Accentor appearing on the lawns in Dubai in the last week or so, there has got to be something out there more monster than this, or any of the above, with my name on it…
Total so far - 160 (91%)
Last addition – Whinchat (22nd April)