Friday, March 16, 2018

Something For The Weekend

Spring has yet to arrive. In fact the weather at the moment here in Lancashire is still like winter with low temperatures, biting easterly winds and even snow predicted for the weekend. 

Something For the Weekend 

With little prospect of birding or ringing I dipped into the archive for the sunny days of Egypt in 2011. 

The post from February 2011 seems especially relevant now as we in the UK await Chiffchaffs fresh from the wintering grounds, one of the first spring migrants. 


Ringers know that early Chiffchaffs often carry pollen residues on their bills. This pollen was deposited by the feeding strategy known as nectarivory, birds indulging in sipping nectar from flowering plants during which flowering pollen is left on the bird itself, mainly around the base of the bill, the part of the bird most closely in contact with the flower. Nectarivory is also known to occur in some species of bats. 


During the 2011 holiday to Egypt I saw countless Chiffchaffs and also saw nectarivory in action. The number of Chiffchaffs was not entirely surprising as unlike the closely related Willow Warbler which winters mainly in West Africa south of the Sahara, Chiffchaffs also cross the Sahara and concentrate in Senegal, while others remain in the Mediterranean North Africa of Egypt. 

At least 3 often inseparable races breed in the Middle East, collybita (includes brevirostris), menzbieri and probably abietinus and at least two others visit. So at any time, and especially during winter, spring and autumn the origins of Chiffchaffs and race of each individual in Egypt is hard to determine. The latest scientific and perhaps unremarkable opinion is that races of Chiffchaff interbreed freely, thus  making racial definition and identification in the field difficult if not impossible.  

There is no doubt that in Egypt I heard and saw our familiar UK collybita, with both the typical “hweet” call and occasional snatches of “chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff”. I also heard the “squeaky chicken” call frequently and on a couple of occasions, snatches of the fast, melodious song of Siberian Chiffchaff tristis, totally unlike the Chiffchaff song I know but more like a demented Dunnock. 

In Hurghada I witnessed many Chiffchaffs taking nectar, at times the liquid being visibly sipped as birds stuck their heads deep into the flowers, and upon the bird withdrawing from the flower, drops of the nectar spilling from their bill. A particular favourite plant of the Chiffchaffs was a flowering Mexican Saguara cactus shown in the photographs below. In a few of the pictures, by zooming up it is possible to see the nectar drops around the bill. 

Chiffchaff on Saguara cactus

Saguara cactus - Egypt







In the two week trip I had one sighting only of Nile Valley Sunbird, another bird that takes nectar. In view of the tremendous number of flowering plants in Makadi Bay my single sighting was a little disappointing. 

The biggest numbers of Nile Valley Sunbirds occur much further south than Hurghada, but in the last 100 years, helped by the building of tourist resorts, the species has spread from the southernmost parts of the Red Sea and up to the Cairo area where it breeds. I didn’t get to Cairo to look for more sunbirds so settled for my one brief encounter and a couple of distant shots.

Nile Valley Sunbird

Egyptian Garden

Some of that sun and warmth of Egypt would  be very welcome right now. Maybe soon? Log in again to Another Bird Blog to check.

Linking today to Anni's blog and Eileen's Saturday.


Mary Howell Cromer said...

What a perfect day for me to get to finally stop by...birds from Egypt. How marvelous they are too as well as the plant life that you got when you went on your past journey. My father grew up in Egypt four years of his boyhood. I must share that one day soon. The images are just beautiful as is your new banner image! Have a great weekend~

Stuart Price said...

I once saw Coal Tits covered in pollen on spring migration. They were so yellow I thought they were fledgelings until I realised it was only early April..............

Angie said...

Phil - I enjoyed your return to Egypt, especially the shots of the Chiffchaff on the cactus. Spectacular! My favorite is the one in which the bird is upside down, head fully buried in the flower. Amazing!

GreenComotion said...

Hi Phil-
You have introduced me to a new bird, the Chifchaf.
Such a beauty, really!
Great photos as always!!
Have a Happy WE.
Peace :)

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Phil! I like the cute garden shot from Egypt. The Chiffchaff is a lovely bird. The cactus shots are beautiful and my favorites. Thank you so much for linking up and sharing this post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

Betty Crow said...

Love the topiary heads. The chiffchaff sure is a cute little guy and you got some great shots! Have a great weekend.

A Colorful World said...

Perfectly wonderful photos of the Chiffchaffs! Wow, lovely little birds and such great shots. Sorry you can't get out and bird where you are, but spring will come one day! :-) I bet the trip to Egypt was amazing!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

The cactus are beautiful and the birds a welcome sighting! Love that last photo too. Hope the sun comes out and warms things soon! Enjoy your weekend!

Bob Bushell said...

Beautiful images Phil, they all love the sun.

sandyland said...

fun garden must learn where that name comes from chiffchaff

A Colorful World said...

So "Philip" means "Lover of horses!" I love that. I wanted a horse very badly as a child, but we always lived in military housing. My husband loves to tease me about me begging my parents for one and saying (though not really believing it was possible) that we could keep it in the bathtub. :-)

Jenn Jilks said...

They are the cutest little birds! We're at -17 C. today, no migrants here.
(ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil!:) Splendid captures of the lovely Chiffchaffs. They look so tiny on the Cactus plants. Although I knew that some birds sipped nectar, I had never heard of the term Nectarivory. Something new to add to my growing interest in birds. Your last image made me smile.:=)

Out weather is similar to yours without the snow, and I'm having to rely on photos taken last year in the Algarve. By the way Phil, Gypsies in Portugal do not usually marry outside of the gypsy community. Integration is a slow process here, because of countless years of intolerance on both sides.

Lowcarb team member said...

Aren't archives / old blog posts great.
I enjoyed seeing these Phil, thanks.

We had snow on Sunday - I wonder what the new week may bring - hope it's a good one for you.

All the best Jan

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Good morning Phil: I had not realized that you had birded in Egypt and it’s not a destination I think of when I think of such things. I am not sure that it’s a place I would want to visit right now. As for the Nile Valley Sunbird, I saw this species in Ethiopia, and in a restricted area it was fairly common. Certainly a gorgeous little bird. Sunbirds are the old world equivalents of hummingbirds here in the Americas and fill a very similar niche, and are equally stunning.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I saw some things about the terrible winter snow over there and thought about you -- hope you -- and your birds -- survive in good health. Nice to have sunny archive photos -- I loved looking at them. The chaffinch on the cactus reminds me of when we stayed in Arizona (well, not the chaffinch, it would have been a different bird but the same cacti).....I remember thinking how interesting it was that they could sit on those prickly things without hurting.

Ela said...

Beautiful bird !!
Fantastic photos !!

NCSue said...

I know it's rude to shout, but I'M TIRED OF WINTER!
Thanks for sharing at

rupam sarma said...

Beautiful pics

Fun60 said...

Nice to see some sunny photos as we are surrounded by snow and ice once again.

Lady Fi said...

Cold here too! Lovely lovely shots.

likeschocolate said...

What a darling bird and that garden is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing! Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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