The Black Scrub-Robin, a rare Western Palearctic bird

RussheckensängerDry Sahel seems to be a hostile living environment in the dry season. Nevertheless it is home to a charismatic species found across the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal east to the Red Sea coast of Sudan and Eritrea I Africa: the Black Bush Robin or Black Scrub-Robin (Cercotrichas podobe), an inhabitant of the hot arid subdesert and savanna with scattered shrubs or acacia bushes and groves of date palms.

During a Rockjumper-tour to bird northern Cameroon in April 2017, bird-lens.com also visited the wide Sahel belt in the northern part of Cameroon. Bird companions in the area going up to Waza NP are the Quail Plover or Lark Buttonquail (Ortyxelos meiffrenii), Scissor-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii), Black-headed Lapwing (Vanellus tectus) and the Cricket Warbler or Cricket Longtail (Spiloptila clamans).

Normally shortly after we left the car, at least one individual of a Black Scrub-Robin could be detected in or besides the low, thorny shrubbery.

The Black Bush Robin is a long-legged scrub-robin with long, graduated and usually high-cocked tail. The nominate race is greyish-black, with black rump, wings and tail. It is said to be common or very common across the majority of its range. Within this range it is generally considered resident, although short-distance migratory movements evidently occur, as the species is documented as a regular winter visitor south to Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as a vagrant to neighboring regions both north and south of its documented range.

It is presumably this potential for vagrancy that makes Black Bush Robin one of the Western Palearctic’s more regular sub-Saharan visitors. The Cricket Warbler for example is less frequently seen. As both observer awareness and coverage intensity have increased in recent decades, the species has been transformed from an extremely rare vagrant to an expected annual visitor within the region.

It is no coincidence that many records of this species in recent years have come from the destinations of Egypt’s Red Sea coast in winter and spring.  The peak of observations from the other hotspot (southern Israel) is from the early spring period (primarily March and early April).

This sub-Saharan rare erratic visitor has been seen increasingly frequently along the Red Sea coast, probably mostly due to the increasing number of birders visiting the region, as well as, the availability of more vegetation cover in the form of hotel gardens. Since 2000, the species has been recorded at El Gouna, Shams Alam Hotel, Shalateen, and Gebel Elba. An immature Black Scrub-Robin was seen at Marsa Alam, Wadi Gamla, on 13 – 14 November 2006. On 4 February and 14 March 2008, Black Scrub Robins were seen at El Gouna. A Black Scrub Robin was seen at Berenice, on the Red Sea coast, on 19 March 2012. A Black Scrub-Robin was photographed at the Fantazia Resort, Marsa al Alam, on 5 – 12 December 2010. On 3 March 2010, a Black Scrub Robin Cercotrichas podobe was seen at Wadi Gimal. The acute paucity of vegetation along the Red Sea coast south of Marsa Alam tends to concentrate northbound migrants in the few green areas, with hotel grounds particularly attractive. This species had been recorded from Shalateen or Shalatayn and Gebel Elba as well. But this is normally out of reach for normal birdwatchers.

The southern Red Sea, including WGNP, is a great place to see some migrant and wintering specialties and rarities that are marginally represented in the Western Palearctic, not only because of its strategic location, but also because it is an under-explored region, a sort of frontier region for birdwatchers.

Many vagrants have been documented in the region in recent years besides the Black Scrub-Robin as the Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) and the Cyprus Warbler (Sylvia melanothorax).

That said, the other location – Israel – can boast also spring, autumn and overwintering occurrences. In most springs one or two birds usually oblige birdwatchers by arriving and lingering at the southern migrant hotspots near Eilat. They tend to arrive during March, but their occurrence is unpredictable and far from guaranteed. In the recent past, a considerable proportion of records have come from the various birdwatching sites around Eilat. These locations included the Israel Bird Ringing Centre Eilat (IBRCE), Holland Park, from the KM19–20 area, Kibbutz Lotan and the Yotvata area.

Behaviorally, Black Bush Robins tend to favor comparatively well-vegetated areas — patches of dense scrub (such as acacia) give them places to skulk, though they can be extremely showy if patience is applied. A number of the Israeli birds have been seen displaying — an act that generally involves fanning their boldly-marked tail and spreading their wings, revealing the rufous wash to the latter.

As the Cricket Warbler or Cricket Longtail (Spiloptila clamans) the Black Bush Robin is another excellent contribution to the portfolio of Western Palearctic birds for bird-lens.com. Although only encountered in the far south of the boundary of the Western Palearctic this cute, small bird native to the Sahel region is highly welcome.

In order to satisfy athe growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of Palearctic, Bird-lens.com has undertaken targeted trips to distant bird areas and destinations nearby. This is to be able to do anything to provide excellent images of the birds of the Western Palearctic. Additionally bird-lens.com is keen to provide images of other birds of other parts of the world – especially if these birds are rarely photographed. The results in images of rare birds are very good. Very nice images bird-lens.com could be brought back from all over the world.

The beautiful image of the blog is only first impressions of what you will find in behind “Picture  Shop” for the Cameroon trip very soon. Simply contact bird-lens.com if you need an image of a bird before even more new pictures are online.

 

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