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>> Historical Rarity Records

Didric Cuckoo, Eilat, 12/Mar/1994

Mark Lawlor

The date was 12th March 1994 and it was my day off from working at the Eilat Ringing Station, so I decided to have a general days birding in the area. When I set off I was pleased to see that the weather was unusually cloudy and just walking through the town parks I could see that there was an increased number of migrants around, most notably lots of Lesser Whitethroats and a few Quail. I spent most of the morning walking north along the drainage canal as far as the ‘middle’ date palms and there had been a few spots of rain which increased still the number of migrants.

It was now into the afternoon and I decided to cut back across the scrub south of the Bird Park HQ to check the salt pans. I stopped here to watch my first male Ruppell’s Warbler of the spring when further back, I noticed the head of a bird sticking out from the back of a bush. The shape of this head immediately shouted cuckoo, and with the dark cap and pale throat, I thought it was going to be a Great Spotted Cuckoo, a species I had never seen before.

However, when I tried to get closer the bird flew away from the bush and landed at the top of a tree further back. I was totally shocked to see that this was no G S Cuckoo at all, but was in fact small and bright green! I had clearly misjudged its size and this totally threw me – especially since I had no idea what species this bird was. I could vaguely remember that there were some small green cuckoos from Africa , but I didn’t know any of their names, never mind how to identify them.

So I set up my scope and started making some important field notes so I could consult some books when I returned to the apartment. The bird was still quite distant but I managed to get some basic features noted. I picked up my scope to change positions and suddenly the bird wasn’t there any more. I walked around the area for half an hour but there was still no sign. This was very worrying because I was not sure whether my notes were detailed enough to make a definite identification. I then had a decision to make – shall I run back to town and try and get other people out here or shall I continue searching? I decided to continue looking as I wasn’t sure where everyone was anyway.

An hour or so later, after sheltering from even more rain, it was still not looking good. I hadn’t seen the bird for almost 2 hours and the day was nearly over. Then, all of a sudden, the cuckoo suddenly appeared again, in more or less the same spot as I originally found it. I was now able to make very detailed field notes. I left the bird as dusk was approaching and headed for the apartment.

I burst through the door and announced to the birders present that I had found something good and needed to look at a few books. I quickly found what I was looking for as my notes perfectly matched Didric Cuckoo, and I was elated. I was just desperate though that other people could get to see it the next day.

The next morning, as I had already seen the bird, I volunteered to man the nets at the ringing station whilst the other workers could try and see the cuckoo. After following my directions, they soon found the bird in the same area and confirmed the identification. I was then able to enjoy the bird a few times during the week as it stayed for quite a while. Still being very inexperienced, this was by far the rarest species I had ever found and was the highlight of my year in Israel .

Didric Cuckoo Didric Cuckoo

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