What we have in plate 89 (and repeated here) is a robust lark, standing on a rock, with the breeze creating a 'black hole' in its breast and perhaps exaggerating its crest. From the relative size of its bill and its legs, it is not a small bird, and thus we are led quickly to the larger, crested larks of West Palearctic distribution, namely those in the genera Galerida, Lullula and Alauda. For a moment, an apparently bold supercilium hints at the Woodlark L. arborea, but the absence of that species' classic black-and-white greater primary coverts--and that thumping bill-- prevents any lingering over that theory. Could it be a Skylark A. arvensis in an odd pose? No; that species is actually rather small-headed and light-billed, and surely even the ruffled breast would show more of the well-striated pattern that is so characteristic of it. The heart sinks and the mind fogs, for clearly we have to deal with a Galerida lark, and that is never an easy task. The genus has seven members in the world, but only two tease observers in the West Palearctic: the Crested Lark G. crislata and the Thekla Lark G. theklae. There is little relief in this fact, however, since the former radiates into 17 races and the latter into five forms in that region alone. Furthermore, the characters that distinguish them are not constant, their morphology being extremely pliable and reflecting their habitat tones. Happily, the awful pair displays neither full sympatry of distribution nor complete habitat overlap. In this case, the rock is a piece of Bahrain, so we can relax in the knowledge that the nearest Thekla Larks are in far west Egypt and highland Ethiopia. 

Issue 7
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