Monday, 6 April 2015

More rain and more species - Al Hayer 28/3/15

The intervening week had been warm and dry and I thought we were done with the rain until the end of the year but no, on Wednesday night it rained fairly heavily again so I guess it was going to be more muddy ground down at Al Hayer.  I travelled down a bit earlier today as the sunrise is getting earlier now and I wanted to be on site just after sun up.  It was dry and cool but again lots of flooding as I set about my walk.  Just for a change I though I would start my report with something a little different, just in case you thought we only have birds in the area;

Now if my knowledge of birds is a little limited my knowledge of reptiles is even more limited but I though you might like to see what else is about.   

There are also a considerable number of butterflies about which I will one day catalogue in the mean time I this is a nice example.  However back to the birds;

masked shrike (Lanius nubicus)
This week I had the pleasure of a new species in the Masked Shrike which I had not seen around here before.  Its a new species for me too which is always pleasing for a patch birder.  I am not sure if this was a pair or just one seen in two different locations as I saw the first at one end of my walk and the second at the far end about 4 hours later.

masked shrike (Lanius nubicus)
This species has been one of those, almost seen, for me for quite a while now.  While birding with Rob Tovey in Jubail last spring we thought we saw one but I did not count it as the view I had was so fleeting that it really could have been anything.  This time it was much more open.  Happy days!!

white-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
In the early morning sun the light was poor for photographs so I had a couple of shots which were poor but at least you can see the White Throated Kingfisher on the dead tree.  I did not see these again during the walk.

common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Another poor shot was the Moorhen which are about in reasonably good numbers but are very shy at the moment, maybe because folk shoot at them a lot.  I also saw a pair of Mallard on the little lake but that photo was little more than a blur I'm afraid.

Namaqua dove (Oena capensis)
The Namaqua Dove was happily sitting on a nearby power line, again I did not see many of these today (2 or 3) although their cousins the Laughing Dove were everywhere as usual.

graceful prinia (Prinia gracilis)
Another common sight (and sound) around the place were the Graceful Prinia's which were scurrying about in the bushes and reeds all over the place.

streaked weaver (Ploceus manyar)
As were the Streaked Weavers which are nesting in good numbers in the area.

White-cheeked Bulbul ( Pycnonotus leucogenys ).
The White Cheeked Bulbuls were also out in force and have also been breeding, I think the one behind is a juvenile.

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
The Turkestan Shrike was also taking a high perch watching everything that was going on about the place.

Daurian shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
Not very far away was a close relative the Daurian Shrike, also busily surveying the scene.

Spanish sparrow or willow sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)
And the Spanish Sparrow were out in force.  This little group found something of interest in a small area by the road but as with last week there were large numbers of these guys in the nearby trees where they are nesting at the minute.

pied wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
While on my walk I bumped into my old friend Lou Regenmorter and we had a little chat before going off in different directions.  However we met up about an hour later as he was watching something in the lower field.  Pointing it out we both had the pleasure of seeing a Pied Wheatear, this one is pretty easy to distinguish with the white throat, subspecies vittata, a first for me.  More happy days :)

black-winged stilt, (Himantopus himantopus)
In the flooded area were a small flock of 9 or 10 Black Winged Stilts, they were in the same area as the Cattle Egret were last week, although there was little sign of those about this week.

little egret (Egretta garzetta)
Wandering among them was a couple of Little Egret, this one sporting a rather nice crest.

grey heron (Ardea cinerea),
I had not been seeing many herons about this past while, especially stationary ones so when I got the chance I took a photo.  This was at a very long range so not exactly clear but hopefully you can make out a Grey Heron from this.

black scrub-robin (Cercotrichas podobe)
A Black Scrub Robin was at the top of a tree surveying the scene and this guy sat there for quite a while watching Lou and myself.

crested lark (Galerida cristata)
Along the roadside where they had moved mounds of earth to try to control the flood waters were a few Crested Lark.  Along my walk today there were only a few of these but then the fields were flooded so I expect they moved to drier ground for now.

common myna (Acridotheres tristis)
Another fairly common bird around the area is the Myna.  Today there were three or four in the Palm trees, I have seen more on other visits but then birds are harder to see in the trees.

Siberian stonechat (Saxicola maurus)
A small number of Stonechats were about but as with the Crested Lark, I  don't think they particularly like the sodden fields so I think they had moved from my area today.

Checking this one

chiffchaff, (Phylloscopus collybita)

Barn Swallow Update

I finished my walk with what has now become a bit of a pilgrimage to the site of the Barn Swallow nests and as has been the case over the past few weeks I was not disappointed.  Two of the nests had new chicks, each with 4 young that I could see and another 2 of the nests had eggs, one with 7 eggs that I could count.  The birds were a good deal more nervous this week, these being the later nesters and I think were probably relatively young birds, maybe breeding for the first time.  I took a look at the nests of the earlier breeders and these were all empty so I guess they will not attempt another brood this year.  That said I am determined to see the season through as best I can to see how it all works out.  I have gotten hold of a copy of Angela Turners Poyser Monograph on the Barn Swallow and she highlights a tendency for Barn Swallow to nest close to farm livestock and especially cows.  This would make sense as the livestock tends to attract flies.  In this instance the link is confirmed as the building whee these birds are nesting is attached to a cattle pen where they keep 5 or 6 cattle.  It has also set me wondering if some of the other cattle farms around the area also support small colonies of Barn Swallow.

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