Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl in January I trapped a quite grey/brown looking Chiffchaff with few greenish tones. Unfortunately, with Chiffchaffs, things get complicated in the Middle East. With Mountain Chiffchaffs nearby, which look quite like Siberian Chiffchaff tristis, and a series of taxa with intriguing combinations of abietinus or intermediate plumage but tristis-like calls (the brevirostris/caucasicus/menzbieri group), diagnosing Chiffchaffs can be a demanding exercise.
There is only one confirmed record of tristis in Saudi Arabia, a bird I trapped and ringed at the same site in Januray 2014, and the bird give a different impression and appeared much greyer. The bird I trapped seems closer to abietinus or some other integrade.
To make things more complicated apparently many tristis can actually look like this and a recent Dutch DNA study revealed that most abietinus-look-alikes are in fact tristis by DNA. For the time being to identify Siberian Chiffchaff I am only looking at classic tristis (no green tones at all, buff face and flanks) and call like a tristis and unfortunately this bird did not fit properly.
Jem Babbington is a keen birder and amateur photographer located in Dhahran, Eastern Saudi Arabia where he goes birding every day. Jem was born in England and is a serious local patch and local area birder who has been birding for almost forty years and has birded in more than fifty countries. Jem is learning to ring birds in Bahrain as a perfect way to learn more about the birds of the area. Saudi Arabia is a very much under-watched and under-recorded country.
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