04 July 2014

Dodging Bullets

Week 17, 24 April 2014 - Al Abraq

I have really fallen behind on my Blog posts, here we are in the middle of summer and I'm still posting about the Spring migration in April!

During spring, you have to visit the western oasis farm of Al Abraq at least a few times, as it known for turning up interesting mega's and vagrants - but at the same time, you can also come away empty handed.

Before getting to the farm, I came across this Lesser Grey Shrike sitting on a very expensive perch - a burnt out Range Rover. After catching and eating a large beetle, it retreated into the car to get out of the sun.

Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)

Not much further on, a Red-back Shrike put in an appearance, I included the red post, but only on processing the image realised that it is a warning sign for landmines! (UPDATE: on 05/07/14 I was back at Al Abraq and stopped to look at the rest of the sign more carefully and it is actually a warning sign for a fiber optic cable - so no danger at all).

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)

Before getting to the gate of the farm, I came across this Wood Sandpiper looking a little out of place on the desert sand

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
On approaching the farm, I knew my morning was going to be ruined, as the migration shooters were already positioned around the perimeter of the farm - obliterating any bird that flew in or out and raining shotgun lead on the people working inside the farm, myself included. Will this annual slaughter ever stop? Probably not, there just seems to be little to no willingness from the authorities to change legislation to prohibit shooting of migratory birds. Perhaps if a visiting birder is 'accidentally' shot, something could happen - but probably the birder would be blamed

No caption required!

Once inside, I tried to stay away from the shooters, but still had lead pellets falling on me every now and then. There was a good number of migrants about, but as can be expected most were skittish and also wisely stayed in cover.

A Common Redstart was found in the shade of a Casarina Tree

Male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
Red-backed Shrikes were aplenty

Male Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
but only one splendid male Masked Shrike was seen

Male Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)
The main quarry for the shooters on the perimeter are birds of colour like Orioles, Rollers

Adult European Roller (Coracias garrulus)
and Bee-eaters

Adult European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
On the passerine front, Lesser Whitethroat (this one with pretty dark upperparts)

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
Numbers of Spotted Flycatchers

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
An Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)
and Eurasian Reed Warblers in the phragmite reeds at the pond near the entrance

Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
A male Whinchat was seen near the cultivated fields

Male Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
As was a single Tree Pipit

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
The fields also produced a number of Yellow Wagtails sub-species

Grey-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. thunbergi)

Sykes's Wagtail (Motacilla f. beema)

A stunning Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. lutea) that had been wounded by the shooters

Not sure what colour this Wagtail is going to turn?
Whilst working through the Wagtails I noted a small Raptor passage by mid-morning as the rising temps created the necessary lift for them to commence their migration..

Black Kites

Juvenile Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
Booted Eagle

Dark form Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)
Numbers of Steppe Buzzards

Juvenile Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

A variety of Western Marsh Harriers

Sub adult male Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Female Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
And a Eurasian Sparrowhawk that was flushed from cover by a farm worker.

Female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
Working my way back through the farm, I found a Common Cuckoo and it took some work to get a few 'clean' images.

Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Whilst birding, I normally check for invertebrates that are about

In the Alfalfa fields, Small Cabbage Whites were enjoying the flowers

Small Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

A new butterfly species for me was this Brown Playboy - interesting name for a pretty dull and innocuous butterfly

Brown Playboy (Deudorix antalus)

Painted Lady's are still in abundance

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

I'n not sure of the identity of this rather large Wasp

Wasp sp
By now the temps had risen, creating heat haze and the majority of the shooters had also given up for the day.

So, I headed back East marveling at the mirages on the horizon and can quite understand how these would have confused early travelers to think that water was imminent.

Its hot out there


  1. Mines still there? I thought all is cleared
    Any complaints were made about these shooters? As far as I know, the "senators" in our "holy" parliament need anything to make a cause (i.e. acting like they are doing some job). Environmental issues are also taken as cards to play nowadays.

  2. Never mind the delays, Mike, the posts are always welcome - stunning shots as always.....

    Laurie -