17 February 2015

Piracy in the south

Week 04, 24 January 2105 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

After my customary breakfast stop, I spent some time at the patch of phragmite reeds on the way to Sea City. This time there were some Spanish Sparrow roosting together with the House Sparrows

Male Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)
Common Chiffchaff numbers have started to reduce, certainly in the south

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
With some patience, I finally had the elusive Common Moorhen come out from the base of the reeds to feed before it disappeared back into the depths and safety. Bear in mind this is a public area, so is prone to shooters stopping by frequently

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
A male Desert Wheatear put in a brief appearance before heading back into the desert

Male Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
Once out on the boat, we headed a little north up the coast to Mina Al Zour finding a few distant Great Black-headed Gulls (finally, these were my first of the winter). 
Great Black-headed Gull (Leucophaeus ichthyaetus)
Of interest there were a fair number of Sandwich and Lesser Crested Terns actively feeding off-shore. One of the Lesser Crested was suddenly attacked by an Arctic Skua that came out of nowhere, forcing it to disgorge it's catch. The Skua spiraled down to the sea and landed - allowing us to get a little closer in the boat before it took to the sky again. My best view of this bird so far!

Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus)

Many large white-headed Gulls were also present, hopefully I have them all the pegged; first up Caspian Gulls

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

Then Heuglin's

Heuglin's Gull (Larus f. heuglini)

and finally Steppe

Steppe Gull (Larus f. barabensis)

Back on land, I explored the area south of Khiran, finding a distant Red-tailed Wheatear

Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)
and an Eastern Mourning Wheatear

Eastern Mourning Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens)
And a Isabelline Wheatear

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
As well as a roost of mixed shorebirds

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius atrifrons)
Asian Desert Warbler's are still plentiful

Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana)
As are Painted Lady butterflies - here a bee and butterfly together

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
There is a feel of spring in the air despite the lack of winter rain, as the Desert Blue Iris are all starting to flower

Desert Blue Iris (Gynandriris sisyrinchium)
and Cistanche lutea seem to be sprouting up everywhere.

Cistanche lutea

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