07 May 2013

North of Mutla Ridge

Week 18, 29 April 2013 - A new area north of Mutla (Click to enlarge image)

Abdulmohsen Al Suraye and I conducted a 2nd survey in a new area north of Mutla Ridge and were able to compare results to the previous month. It is quite amazing how many migrants have long moved on but are replaced by a new stream of different species. As with other sites and the Region, there has been an absolute eruption of Red-backed Shrikes.

I arrived early and this was really big sky country with some cloud cover to add to the atmosphere.

A new day dawns
In the first area there was not much habitat, but what little habitat there was had diversity and numbers of many migrant species, but most of the passerines had one eye on the Shrikes..

A late male White-throated Robin was a surprise and proved to be quite elusive

Male White-throated Robin (Irania gutturalis)
There were numbers of Common Whitethroat

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
and a few Upcher's Warblers in a small stand of mature trees. I have seen quite a few with this prominent pale wing panel, not dissimilar to Olive Tree

Upcher's Warbler (Hippolais languida)
As mentioned, Red-backed Shrikes were aplenty and thanks to Yoav for highlighting that Red-backed Shrikes do a complete moult in Africa (in winter), so it is impossible to age them in Spring, but most can be sexed.

Male Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)

Female Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
A little further north a single female Lesser Kestrel (not Common) was found roosting in a dead tree. Thanks to my friend Daniele for correcting the mis-id by highlighting that Lesser has white nails and thinner black bands on the upperparts

Female Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni)
Even though this tree provided very little cover, we still had birds in the vicinity including a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)
In an open natural depression, there was some good cover and here we found Common Redstart

Female Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
More Upcher's Warblers

Upcher's Warbler (Hippolais languida)
and of course more Red-backed Shrikes

Female Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
Only a few Spiny-tailed Lizards were seen

Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia mirolepis)
We then explored the southern area closer to the Ridge and had masses of Shrikes (Red-backed, Lesser Grey, Woodchat, Turkestan and the odd Daurian) in the Acacia trees that lined either side of the road.

Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)
Driving slowly we found a skulking Common Nightingale

Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)
5 Eurasian Golden Orioles that somehow were always on the opposite side of the tree to where we were

Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)
A Common Cuckoo that took some time to finally get a decent image

Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) 
On our last visit we had a Mauryan Grey Shrike with a snake, this time a Red-backed with an unfortunate Willow Warbler. I reckon the Willow Warblers form a big part of the Shrikes diet on migration. Again, the strategy was to impale the prey on an acacia thorn inside the cover so it could feed without dropping it's prey - fascinating to watch (Ok, it is not quite the same as a Lion kill that I am more used to seeing in the National Parks of South Africa).

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) with Willow Warbler prey

Now, we wait until next month to see further changes in migration patterns.

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