Paul Scott and I had been wanting to try some astrophotography, but could never quite get the lunar cycle to coincide with the weekend. When Ramadan was called on the new moon, a few days later (not quite new moon), we had a break with the weather and headed out to Al Abraq in the late afternoon. So, we would have a sunset, a rising milky way and then with bleary eyes a sunrise - so a full outing with birds, stars and some arty creativity!
We stopped for some camels that were returning to their overnight camps.
If you have ever wandered what the underside of a camels foot or toe looks like? - well, it is almost like a slipper
|A genuine Camel's Toe|
Tried something creative by shooting directly into the sun
|Abraq camels heading home|
We still had some daylight left, so at the farm we had a Spotted Flycatcher on the fence at the entrance gate
|Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)|
and then enjoyed seeing both European Bee-eaters
|European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)|
followed by Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters coming in to roost (nice comparative images between the two species)
|Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)|
A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron flew in to roost on the railing of the pool
|Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)|
Driving around the farm, we found a number of these really large Wasps, feeding voraciously on one kind of spiky plant (don't know what this plant is called). Thanks to Prof. Razzaq Al-Zubaidy from Iraq who identified the Wasp as Prionyx macula. It is a Wasp that actively hunts crickets and grasshoppers
|The monstrous Prionyx macula|
In the same area, I flushed a Yellow-throated Sparrow whilst chasing after one of the Wasps
|Yellow-throated Sparrow (Gymnoris xanthocollis)|
We stopped to enjoy a Lesser Grey Shrike feeding on a large grasshopper against the setting sun, whilst getting a little creative
|Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) against the setting sun|
After which the sun slipped below the horizon of the western desert
We then headed out of the farm to find a good spot with some foreground interest for the rising milky way at midnight. It was a long wait, but we tried some test shots, had something to eat and drink.
When away from light pollution, it is amazing how bright even a small sliver of a crescent moon can be, so we needed to wait for it to set at midnight and then the core of the milky way started rising and was more visible.
I was a little disappointed, as I expected it to be much more visible, but even in the west, it wasn't quite dark enough.
This was my first attempt at astrophotography, so am relatively pleased with the results. Its the post processing that is the challenge - will need to practice...
|Painting with light|
|The core rises|
|The best of the nights images|
By 3am in the morning, we were finished and caught 40-winks in the car. It was surprisingly cold just before sunrise, when I creakily got up from the drivers seat to take a few images of our surroundings.
|This is where we based ourselves for the night photography|
We then drove into the desert to enjoy the sunrise and to warm up
It gets light pretty quick in the summer, so back into the farm finding a Tree Pipit as we drove in
|Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)|
One area that had recently been flooded, but also had a lot of cover was an absolute magnet for a variety of Warblers. First up was a Basra!
|Basra Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus griseldis)|
Many Sedge Warblers
|Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)|
Along with Caspian Reeds
|Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. fuscus)|
|Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)|
And a single Garden Warbler
|Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin)|
One very yellow Willow Warbler had us going for awhile, thinking we may have had an Icterine
|Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)|
We then walked and drove around the farm finding numbers of Red-backed Shrike
|Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)|
An Upcher's Warbler, my first for the spring
|Upcher's Warbler (Hippolais languida)|
We also played hiding-go-seek with a few Common Nightingale's, but only managed to see one, briefly
|Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)|
The same story with a male White-throated Robin - not easy to get on to or photograph
|White-throated Robin (Irania gutturalis)|
Whilst following the Robin, I saw a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin drop in to one of the fields - so that diverted our attention.
|Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)|
By now it was warming up as a few Barn Swallow's passed by overhead and our eyes were starting to get weary and heavy. So, it was a good time to call it a morning and head home for a well-deserved Ramadan siesta
|Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)|