14 November 2020

The first winter rains

Week 46; 13 November 2020 - Pivot Fields

We had our first winter rain this week which was very welcome, it seemed to clear the suspended dust and other impurities in the sky and minimises dust on the ground when driving in the desert - at least for a few days. There was some light rain in the early morning before arriving at the farm and it was overcast till almost 8am before the sun finally made an appearance. I headed to the marsh, stopping for this 1st year Turkestan Shrike that was taking advantage of the Grasshoppers and Dragonflies that were rendered lethargic in the coolness of the early morning, to get a quick breakfast. There was no sun at all, so had to crank up the ISO to get a decent image

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)

Like last week, a few of us (John, Jules and Christian) met near the marsh and waited for the light to improve. I noticed a Crested Honey Buzzard flying slowly across the distant field - hardly a worthy record shot..

Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)

There wasn't too much happening at the marsh and the water level had also increased with the rain, so I headed off for a drive. A Sparrowhawk darted out from the Tamarix Tree's

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

Slowly the sun broke through the breaking clouds giving short periods of sunshine. On the overhead line, I had a small flock of Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra)

Not much further on, a Daurian Shrike in soft winter light

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)

Followed by a Steppe Grey Shrike, still puffed up from the coolness of the morning

Great Grey Shrike (Lanius e. lahtora)

I found a pair of European Stonechat's that were obliging

Female European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

Male European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

and in the same area, a Graceful Prinia allowing me to capture one of the best images I have of this species

Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)

It then clouded over again as I went in search of the Sociable Lapwing's  or a Golden Plover - no luck, but I did manage to get a few Skylark's as they took off from the field

Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

And a female Desert Wheatear, posing nicely on a raised mound

Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)

It didn't seem the sun was going to make an appearance for some time, so I called it a morning. I thought it was a relatively quiet morning, but when I submitted my eBird list, I had racked up 50 species at the farm which was pretty impressive for early winter.

10 November 2020

Gorgeous winter light at the Pivots

Week 45; 09 November 2020 - Pivot Fields

I really enjoy arriving at the Pivots just before the sun starts to rise and with winter approaching, this is now just after 6am. This morning we had lower temperatures and a low mist across the fields, which really added to the atmosphere.

Pivots Sunrise

Dawn glow

The mist created soft subdued light for a good part of the morning which has resulted in this photo heavy post - as the light was just gorgeous! Enjoy.....

Driving to the marsh, I was surprised by this low flying Imperial Eagle that must have been roosting in the fields - luckily I had already setup my camera and was able to track it flying toward me

Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)

A few Daurian Shrikes were in the usual spot which gives a warm backdrop of autumn colour

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)

Whilst enjoying the Shrikes, a pair of Graceful Prinia's which I haven't seen for some time, made an appearance

Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)

I found a good spot at the marsh with the rising sun behind me and stayed in the same place for over an hour - it was magical..

I was entertained by a female Eastern Stonechat, probably Armenian

Armenian Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)

Then a cracking Daurian Shrike, who evicted the Stonechat from it's perch

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)

Water Pipits were all around the marsh

Caucasian Water Pipit (Anthus s. coutelli)

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were hunting around me and returning to the same perch, giving awesome photographic opportunities. Only once did one catch a Dragonfly, but didn't give the 'Dragonfly Flip' picture I was hoping for.. The prey does match the eye colour though!

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

Black-eared Kites did occasional sorties over the marsh, putting up all the wading birds. It appeared as if one of these Kites took a small fish from the marsh

Black-eared Kite (Milvus m. lineatus)

Marsh Harriers were doing the same and this male with its yellow eye looked pretty intense whilst hunting

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

However, it was the smaller Sparrowhawk that really got all the marsh birds up in the air - which I found quite surprising

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

The marsh attracts both small, medium and large wading birds - the Glossy Ibis were still present

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)

As were Cattle

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)


Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

and Great Egret's

Western Great Egret (Ardea alba)

This morning there was a large flock of Mallard

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

and the two Northern Shoveler were still present

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

A cracking White-tailed Lapwing gave a low fly-by after being put in the air by the Marsh Harrier

White-tailed Lapwing (Vanellus leucurus)

There were good numbers of Barn Swallow and Pallid Swift feeding above and over the marsh. I was quite impressed that I was able to hold and track it flying toward me with just the center focus point.

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)

I could have stayed another hour at this spot, but had to have a drive around the farm to check what else was present. 

Luckily I did, as I found this all black raptor that really had me going and initially thought it might be melanistic. Dick Forsman confirmed the ID as a really 'dark phase' Long-legged Buzzard. I certainly have never seen one with such black plumage before!

Dark phase Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

Taking some flack from a Black-eared Kite

Whilst watching the Buzzard, the Sparrowhawk came by at speed

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

A little further on, I had a more typical 1st year Long-legged Buzzard being harassed by a Northern Lapwing

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) and Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

The awesome fulvescens Spotted Eagle is still present

Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga c. fulvescens)

Here the regular Greater Spotted, for comparison

Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)

By mid-morning the mist had lifted and the sun was pretty bright, so last bird was a Isabelline Wheatear, before I headed home, pretty satisfied with the mornings results

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)