Whilst birding Jebal Hamrah in early March I saw a male Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia crassirostris in a small shrub in one of the wide wadies along the bottom of the escarpment near Judah. This species is a scarce passage migrant to all areas, rather common in the west but rare in the Gulf, with mostly single birds seen. Birds are most often recorded in March and April and September to October.
Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) state it is a spring and autumn passage migrant. Passes from mid-January to early May and again throughout September. Numbers variable but generally uncommon and seen in ones and twos only. The sub-species S. c. belchanica passes through the region. Males have a sharply delimited, well-defined blackish cap and lack the white eye often depicted for the species.
The sighting was a good one for me as I seldom see this species in Saudi Arabia and only have one poor photo. Unfortunately for me, the one time it came out into the open the sun was in the wrong direction so my photo was not the best. By the time I moved to have the sun behind me, the bird had disappeared deep into a bush and despite waiting for a very long time it did not come out into the open again.
The subspecies we get in Saudi Arabia isSylvia crassirostrisbalchanica from SW CaspianSea region, NE Iraq east to SE Turkmenistan and SE Iran; non breeding in S Iran, S Pakistan and SE Arabia (UAE, Oman). This subspecies has a dark eye.