01 May 2012

Serenity in SAANR

Week 16, 21 April 2012 - SAANR (Click on images to enlarge)

It had been sometime since I last visited SAANR and with the pulsating Spring migration, I wanted to avoid any places where shooters would be out in force - so the peace and tranqulity of SAANR it was.

Today, we had high cloud most of the day that made for acceptable photography for the duration of the morning and kept temps bearable.

Driving toward Tuhla, I made a small detour past a line of trees that have grown quite a bit in the past 2-years, finding a host of passerine migrants including numerous Spotted Flycatchers.

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
On reaching Tulha, I spent a quiet 2-hours slowly driving around the pond, small reedbed and surrounding trees with each turn providing something new. Not big numbers, but certainly a lot of variety. A magnificent Masked Shrike in breeding plumage was found in the overhang of a tree

Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)

I parked on the edge of the pan and was entertained by; Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
A female Blackcap that almost looked comical with the erect crest

Female Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

and the ever stunning White-throated Robin

White-throated Robin (Irania gutturalis)
There were birds calling in and around the reeds, so a slow drive around produced a host of other species. Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins have made a return

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)
A few Tree Pipits were also seen, but in much smaller numbers

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
Great Reed Warblers were prevalent inside and and foraging around the reeds

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
A European Turtle Dove landed not to far from me and went about it's business with seemingly no concern - this wouldnt be the case at Al Abraq!

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
When I looked again, a European Bee-eater stood out conspicously against the reeds - I didnt even see or hear it come in

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
Mostly female Common Redstarts were seen today and these too were quite obliging

Female Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

A Common Whitethroat foraging amongst the few spring flowers

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
I also found a dead Corncrake, which I assume was a natural migration fatality

Deceased Corncrake (Crex crex)
I decided to head for the bigger pan in the wadi, finding a Whinchat on the way

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
and a pale form Booted Eagle overhead, the distinguishing "landing lights" clearly visible in these images

Pale Form Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata)

At the wadi pan, there were numerous Red-necked Phalaropes, a few Ruff, Common and Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint and Common Snipe as well as White-winged Tern in breeding plumage and this Whiskered Tern. This bird was feeding on the wing, taking insects off the surface - after many attempts I was able to capture this action in pixels.

Feeding Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

On the way back to Tuhla, I stopped at a large patch of green in a depression that hosted hundreds of Ortolan Buntings, outnumbering all other migrants seen today. Here also Spring flowers were in full bloom

Spring flowers
Back at Tuhla, I found a skulking Little Bittern

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)
Around the reeds one more time, I had a male Ortolan Bunting stripping the seeds of the tops of the grass heads. A few times, it would pull the grass stem down, stand on it and than strip off the seeds - oblivious to me being so close.

Male Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)

And lastly a Wryneck contentedly feeding on the ground at an ant burrow it had found, which reminded me that it was my time to head home for lunch.

Feeding Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)

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