24 March 2019

Spring migration picking up

Week 11, 16 March 2019 - Al Abraq and Jahra Farm

Paul Scott and I had an early start in good weather for the drive west to Al Abraq in the hope the migration had picked up a little since last week. On arrival we stopped at the pond near the entrance while we got our optics and camera gear sorted. A number of Common Chiffchaff were active in the trees next to the pond.

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

We then had a slow drive around the farm inadvertently flushing a Steppe Buzzard that had roosted for the night

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

In the open desert area we noted that the number of Pied Wheatear's had increased and almost all males. There is also plumage variation between the males - some have pretty white underparts, whilst others have hints of pale beige/brown

Pied Wheatear 1 (Oenanthe pleschanka)

Pied Wheatear 2 (Oenanthe pleschanka)

Pied Wheatear 3 (Oenanthe pleschanka)

There was only one female amongst the males

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

In the fields, a single female Armenian Stonechat was seen

Female Armenian Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)

Along with two Daurian Shrikes that looked smart in their breeding plumage

Daurian Shrike 1 (Lanius isabellinus)

Daurian Shrike 2 (Lanius isabellinus)

and soon after a stunning male Western Blue Rock Thrush that was quite content sitting quietly in a low bush seemingly enjoying the early morning sun

Western Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)

We then parked the car and walked which was fairly productive in one area where there were many more Common Chiffchaff, as well as Willow Warbler calling

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

Along with some Eurasian Blackcap's

Male Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

A single Lesser Whitethroat gave fleetingly good views

Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia c. halimodendri)

and a cracking male Ehrenberg Redstart that with patience was eventually quite obliging

Male Ehrenberg's Redstart (Phoenicurus p. sammamisicus)

A Deer wandering around the farm was a bit of a surprise, but it had escaped from it's pen


The flower show is still in bloom and Painted Lady butterflies are seemingly still everywhere

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

and there are more to come with many pupae seen in the vegetation. This one was visibly vibrating - so hatching was imminent

Painted Lady pupae (Vanessa cardui)

I photographed a Mediterranean Pierrot

Mediterranean Pierrot (Tarucus rosacea)

and it was replaced by a Fly when I hesitated in taking another image - now you see me, now you don't!

Fly sp.

These yellow flowers were quite pungent and more appealing to Hover Fly's

Hover Fly sp

A Small Cabbage White stood out from the crowd of Painted Lady's

Small Cabbage White (Artogeia r. iranica)

These Bordered Straw type moths are also very active in the day feeding together with the Painted Lady's

Possible Bordered Straw (Heliosthis peltigera)

Possible Eastern Bordered Straw (Heliosthis nubigera)

Grasshopper numbers are also starting to increase

Grasshopper sp

On the way out, we were quite surprised to find a Little Bittern at the pond

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)

As well as a Ruff that had also dropped in

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

We then headed back east, stopping off at Jahra Farm - by now it was pretty warm and there wasn't too much around - but we did enjoy the antics of around 4 White-throated Kingfishers that were very vocal and seemed quite territorial - or there were a few males competing for the attention of a female?

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Calling White-throated Kingfisher

Displaying White-throated Kingfisher

Territorial White-throated Kingfisher

Don't want that anymore

We did keep an eye on the sky and were rewarded with a distant Short-toed Snake Eagle passing by overhead.

Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)

Migration is certainly evident, but still abundance and diversity are pretty low and hopefully will pick up in the coming few weeks

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