11 April 2012

It's raining lead

Week 14, 07 April 2012 - Al Abraq

I was up early to get to this oasis farm by 06h45, but being Spring Migration the shooters surrounding the farm had beat me to it. Nevertheless, I progressed into the farm - although it is difficult to relax and enjoy birding with the constant sound of gunfire with lead pellets raining down on your car. More concerning were those shooting with air rifles, as they shoot straight rather than up in the air, so it is best to keep your windows closed in case of a stray pellet.

I found this logo on a Flickr website, but I'm sure the person who posted it will encourage me using it, although it applies to shotguns too!

Just before turning off the tar road into the desert, I found a Steppe Eagle that had roosted overnight in the desert.

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
Once inside the farm, there were many good birds close to the boundary fence near where the shooters were lurking; the highlight being a single Desert Finch that would not co-operate for a photograph and a small group of Hypocolius. Fortunately for them, their habit of going almost vertical when flying out of the trees saved them from being cut down in a burst of pellets.

What is quite amazing during migration is how since my last visit, species and numbers change. Today there were big numbers of Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
and Eurasian Blackcap's

Male Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
Wheatear numbers and diversity were drastically reduced with only two Pied Wheatears seen

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
However, both Daurian Shrike

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
and Turkestan Shrike were seen and gave good opportunities to compare differences

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
There were also large numbers of Tree Pipit

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
and Red-throated Pipit resplendent in breeding plumage

Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)
and smaller numbers of Tawny Pipits

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
Graham and Maggie Whitehead were also enjoying Spring migration at the farm and staying away from the falling lead. I found a small obliging flock of Pale Rockfinches which was a first for Graham. I also hadnt seen these birds for quite some time, so we spent some time enjoying them.

Pale Rockfinch (Carpospiza brachydactyla)
I came across these desert plants and cant remember what they are called, but they have just finished flowering (I will post the name once I get it)

There were a few Accipiters about and I was fortunate to see both Eurasian Sparrowhawk, where I just missed the departing image getting the wingtip out of the frame - swinging The Beast is not always easy!

Male Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

and the much rarer and more sought after Shikra

Shikra (Accipiter badius)
Again there were many Common Redstarts, but no samamiscus in sight - whereas on the last visit 2-weeks back it was the complete opposite

Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
Before leaving I saw this Pallid Harrier come gliding down the road and alight under the tree in some shade, as the temperature had already climbed up to 30 degrees

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)
On the way back across the desert, I found this Spiny-tailed Lizard (Dhub) that couldnt find it's burrow. Fortunately for the Dhub, it was mid-day and most raptors were either roosting or thermalling pretty high up - so, no free lunch; mind you it could have also been shot if it was any earlier!

Spiny-tailed Lizard

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