The unsound approach

Photos from a nonbirding trip to Taba, Egypt, 7th-14th April 2009

all pics JG

Several important learnings from this dude-mungus beach holiday: 1) "all inclusive" holidays are the worst invention in history (or second worst after the TV series Britain's Got Talent); 2) coral reefs do not improve with the constant addition of everyone's plastic refuse; and 3) despite all the odds, some Palearctic-Afrotropical migrant populations continue to survive, at least in the east. Feast your eyes on some truly tedious holiday snaps:

Lawn birding - is there anything better?

BC Belter. Hopefully by the time he gets to Turkey all the honeyz will be taken, frustrating him to the point that he decides to fly to Shetland... 

One for Rob - going to buy a DSLR before your next visit to Waxham?

And one for Showler. At least female Semi-c's are vaguely identifiable in spring... Check the grey centred tertials with fine edges, and pale tail/remiges. Big median covert bar just visible here. Didn't manage to read the ring number though...

Same bird. Note the primary patch is extensive but not huge (well within range of Pied). You can actually see very faint white patches on the bases of at least P5&4 (numbered from P1 outside). The prominent white fringes to the adult-type medians are (presumably) diagnostic of Semi-c in spring, although they mean nothing in autumn.

And again. Some apparently very worn juvenile-style outer primaries visible, presumably indicating it's a 2cal? Also big moult contrast in the greater covs. It had an interesting habit of waving and fanning its tail - is that a regular feature of Semi-c? Unfortunately it didn't make any noise, other than a standard Ficedula "trt" when it flew.

It was also interesting to get some decent looks at Eastern Olivaceous. Surprise surprise, they seem to be very variable... This one was quite chunky with a short heavy bill...

Fortunately the bill sides were at least straight, if not quite convex...

This one was even bigger, with surprisingly long/shiny wings (though still nowhere near as long as this!!!). And the bill almost looks concave-sided here... 

And how about this bastard:

Wtf? I thought the key diagnostic feature for male Eastern Black-eared was the presence of extensive black on forecrown/supraloral? Not a jot on this bird. What would everyone call this if it turned up on Blakeney?

EDIT: The above photo/comment has attracted the attention of the king playa himself - Killer M!!! He wrote to let us know that the black forecrown feature was never supposed to apply to first year males, only to adults. Fair play. We also recieved another comment from out west, this time from web-guru Harry Hussey, pointing out that spring 2cal Easterns tend to show more signs of immaturity than their Western counterparts which tend to look more like adults. So all in all it's a relief I didn't find this bird on Blakeney, as it seems I would have thoroughly cocked it up! Win some learn some...

The females aren't any easier... A bit pearly on the mantle maybe, but not particularly cold-toned. At least it doesn't look like a Pied... 

Banana fans: beware of the Caspian Reed! Check that fine, dagger bill and crispy plumage. Even the wing looks quite short. If you've not got emarginations, you've got nothing. Apparently they can even give a Lesserthroat "tak" call if you press them.

This one was also interesting. Out of about a thousand flavas seen during the week, two were almost completely monochrome, a la tshutschensis. Both, however, called just like typical flava. So a monochrome yellow wag is not necessarily an eastern yellow wag, even in spring... 

Time to step away from the ID handbaggery...

One brainless Corncrake. Maybe it's one of the remote-controlled RSPB plastics? Either way, it was great fun until a big Egyptian geezer clobbered me, believing I was trying to take pictures up his wife's burqa... 

Next stop Minsmere...