30 September 2013

Raptor Watch Cont....

Week 38, 16 September 2013 - Jahra Pools Reserve and Sabah Al Ahmad Natural Reserve (Click to enlarge image)

Again there was a decent raptor passage yesterday which I missed, so I decided to get out there early today starting off at Jahra Pools which is on the way.

It was a perfect morning, still and quiet with great light - although not always possible to get into the perfect position, so you sometimes have to work with what is presented. Here a Western Cattle Egret with some rim-lighting from the sun behind it which still gives a pleasing result.

Backlit Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Had I had the time to set-up, this would have been a great image - unfortunately not enough blur to make a creative image of these 2 Common Kingfishers

Backlit Common Kingfishers (Alcedo atthis)
A Squacco Heron was sitting quietly in the shadow of the reeds.

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
Whilst I almost missed a quick flyby from a Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
Driving around the reserve, I had another obliging Western Cattle Egret that posed for a portrait.

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) portrait
Sitting pretty close to another Squacco Heron, also posing for a portrait

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) portrait
A few Greater Short-toed Larks were feeding in the desert area

Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
Whilst a Spotted Fly was hunting from the barbed wire fence.

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
On this side of the reserve I found a more obliging Common Kingfisher in good light

Common Kingfishers (Alcedo atthis)
Followed quickly by an obliging White-throated Kingfisher.

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)

By now it was time to head to SAANR, as the temp was rising and so would the thermals that the roosting raptors would need for lift from their evening roosts. I joined Ammar and Meshal at Tahla where we positioned ourselves on chairs underneath an Acacia Tree next to the large pool and waited for the raptors to arrive.

Steppe Buzzards were the first, small numbers initially, but then these slowly increased. As the wind was favourable, not many stopped to drink. There were quite a few plumage variations amongst those we saw, although my favourite was the dark form.

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

Dark form Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

Dark form Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

There were a few that stopped to quench their thirst

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus) dropping in for a drink

The next 'wave' were Harriers and Kites and were mix of Montagu's

Male Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

Pallid Harriers

Female Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

Juvenile Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

Juvenile Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) resting in the shade

and Black Kites

Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
In between, we had a few Steppe Eagles pass by high overhead, ss well as a single Common Kestrel that swooped by pretty low

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Along with the Sand Martins and Barn Swallows hawking over the pools, a single Common House Martin suddenly made an appearance and then disappeared

Common House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
Once the wave had passed, I drove around the pools with their acacias, finding White-throated Robin on the ground

1st year White-throated Robin (Irania gutturalis)
And Ortolan Buntings in the trees

Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)
Many Common Whitethroats and Garden Warblers

Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin)
A couple of Tree Pipit's seeking shelter from the sun

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
As well as a Pied Wheatear

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Just as I was about to leave, I noticed some movement at the water's edge - once I got my bins up, I saw that it was a Daurian Shrike that had just killed what appeared to be a Spotted Fly. It took some time to dispose of the struggling Flycatcher, then the Shrike rested for some 10-minutes. It then returned and dragged the limp Flycatcher into thicker cover and started plucking the head feathers to get to the brain. In most instances, it is the brain that the Shrikes eat first and quite often they leave much of the rest of the bird uneaten.

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus) with Spotted Fly (Muscicapa striata)

29 September 2013

Raptor Watch cont....

Week 37, 13 September 2013 - Khuwaisat and JPR (Click to enlarge image)

Yesterday another big raptor passage was reported by many of the local birders, so I got my family up early to see if we could enjoy the tail end of yesterdays passage.

We were at Khuwaisat by 6:30 to discover that literally all the birds had moved on and no raptors had roosted overnight. We drove around the roost area and had one Harrier stop briefly to drink from a small run-off from the farm, taken by my son Jaden. I was able to get an image of the bird in flight. I believe this is a Hen Harrier, primarily due to the 5-fingers on the primaries.

Juvenile Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

Sadly, a 4x4 with a bunch of shooters who had little disregard for us taking photo's and enjoying the birds drove by shooting at Wagtails drinking from the same seep, spoiling our morning's birding and upsetting my family. I understand that shooters can now be prosecuted if caught, so this is great news and I hope it will curb much of the senseless shooting of migrants.

Indiscriminate shooters spoiling the morning's birding

We departed for the tranquility and protection of Jahra Pools and enjoyed the birds inside this reserve. My son Jaden photographed this flock of Little Egrets with a few Western Cattle Egret's

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta ) and Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis )
As well as a Sykes's Wagtail

Sykes's Wagtail (Motacilla f. beema)
With a bigger lens, I was able to get 'closer' to the Little Egrets

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta )
Driving around the reserve, we found Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio  porphyrio)
A single Red-necked Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
The numbers of Duck have increased, with a large flock of Garganey

Garganey (Anas querquedula)
And a few Ferruginous Duck; here is one of this seasons 1st-year birds

1st year Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)
Sadly this Spotted Crake got caught and died on the barbed wire fence

Deceased Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana)
The only raptor at the Reserve was a distant Western Marsh Harrier

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
There are large numbers of Collared Doves that roost in the Casarina Trees away from the pools.

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Hopefully I will be a little luckier with the next raptor wave over the coming week(s)