Monday, 29 February 2016

New kit on trial

Over the past few months I have been slowly gathering some new photography kit and trying to learn how to use it.  I think you will agree from the results below that I have a long way to go yet but had to start somewhere. 

The trip was to Al Hayer again mainly so at least the area was familiar even if he equipment was not.  So on Saturday morning (6/2/16) we headed off.  I had a coat on hand just in case it was freezing lake last week but as it happens it was a good deal warmer and indeed during the walk I even managed to pick up a little sunburn, definitely a first for this year!!

In all the fields the farm workers were busy with heavy machinery either shoring up flood defences or cutting crops so the birdlife was a little scarce but there is always something of interest.

There was still quite a bit of encroachment of water onto the surrounding areas.  There is a road under there believe it or not.  The flooding that occurred in December is taking a long time to disappear from all areas.  I think some of this is being caused by the shoring up work going on at the opposite side of the reed bed.

As always the dove family is very well represented around the area.  The most common by far is the Palm Dove or Laughing Dove.
Also there is small numbers were the Eurasian Collared Dove and a few Namaqua Dove.

The House Sparrow are busy breeding at the moment having paired up and are to be seen everywhere building nests or repairing those from last year.

These guys were nesting in the rafters of an old shed while another pair had taken up residence in a power sub station about 20m away.

Their cousins the Spanish Sparrow are also building but I don't think they have started breeding yet.

Another breeder again this year is the Barn Swallow which has been repairing nests in the farm building they used last year.  As yet only one of the nests actually has eggs.  This nest was the first to have eggs last year also but in this case there were 5 or maybe 6 compared with last years 4 eggs.  I tried to take a photo using my phone which is truly dreadful so decided against publishing but if you really want to I can let you have a copy. 

These eggs are a full week earlier than I found them last year and indeed given that the nest is full (5 eggs @ 1 day interval between laying) then they may have started laying early the week before.

There were a few Black Scrub Robin about the place today, most were hiding near the base of trees and bushes but this come came out for a look around.

As always the Cattle Egret were about in good numbers.  They feed around the spray zones in front of the irrigation sprinklers and once one is turned off they move on to the next one.

White Eared Bulbuls were plentiful again today.

There were one or two Daurian Shrike around the place but definitely not as many as previous weeks.  I think they were put off by the racket being made by the diggers.

A rather poor shot but all I managed to get of the Black Crowned Night Heron as it took off into the sun.  Not seen these about for a bit.

The March Harries were about in good numbers today with four that I saw.  I tried out getting an inflight photo and well, maybe someday lol.

Always seen about the place are the White Throated Kingfisher, thee there three in the area, this one and its partner were a few meters from one another on the sprinkler.

This Great Grey Shrike was very shy today and did not come out very much at all. I am not sure if there has been someone about taking pot shots at the birds but they all seem a little skittish today.

The Crested Lark were busy all over the place today.

And the Black Scrub Robin was in and out of the bushes a bit more often than usual this week.  There were a few more about this week than normal, but I'm not sure if they have arrived or are always here but not seen.

The only Bee Eater I saw all day.  This is unusual as they are normally about in good numbers but must have had somewhere else to be today. 

The birding today was as good as always down at Al Hayer and the weather was quite pleasant.  As I mentioned above I was messing abut with some new kit so did not get as many photos as I might have but it was still good fun.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Hometown patch in the freezing cold!

Al Hayer again but this time in the freezing cold.  Temperatures about 2 or 3 degrees and did not rise much all the time I was there.  I suppose I should call this Kingfisher week as we had three species in the area today but more on that anon.

As ever the White Eared Bulbul were about in good numbers and kept me company for most of the walk.  These guys have a sweet voice and are singing almost all the time.  This is in contrast to the other songster of the bushes, the Graceful Prinia which has a coarser rasping song.

A few Cattle Egret disappearing off into the distance.  The farmer had not turned on the sprinklers in the fields at Al Hayer this morning so I think the majority of these were at another farm.

The little house sparrows were about if reasonable numbers but not terribly active.  It was pretty cold for them so I think most were waiting until the sun got up a bit and started to warm things before they sprung into action.

There was a flock of about 10 or 12 Mynah about the place but unusually they were being very shy and would not get me approach close enough to get a decent photo.  

The Common Moorhen were to be seen in just about every body of water I passed.  There were quite a number which could be heard in the reeds too.  I know there are a number of large open areas of water inside the reed bed which are pretty inaccessible to me and many of these guys hang out in there.

Another distant shot of a couple of Common Snipe and a Green Sandpiper.  These Snipe have been around here for a few weeks although I expect they will head off once the temperatures begin to rise.

As luck would have it a short while after spotting the Snipe I came across the Green Sandpiper asleep, he woke as I took this photo but stayed put and just watched me walk by.  Another unusual experience really as they normally shoot off as soon as they spot you.

Right beside the sandpiper was this little guy.  I say about half a dozen of these White (pied) Wagtails, not as many as a month or so ago but still present.

Ok spot the birdie lol.  The Crested Lark excels at blending into the background in the fields and very often all you have to know they are there is their incessant singing.  Always a pleasure to see though.

Grey Heron and Purple Heron were both around in good numbers today, although I did not manage to get a good photo of the Purple this week.
I thought I might call this report Kingfisher Week as I saw three species around the fields, the Common Kingfisher above was sitting in a bush and allowed me to approach quite close to take my photograph.  I think I could have gone closer too but I did not want to disturb his rest.  To be honest I have never before got this close to one of these and can only put it down to the fact that is was so cold that he could not be bothered to fly away.

There were a couple of White Throated Kingfishers about the place today and this one was peeking out from between the bars of the sprinkler.  A little later I spotted a Pied Kingfisher fishing in the ponds by the middle field.  It was doing its little hover before plunging into the pond.  Unfortunately I could not get a photo.

I am pretty sure this is the Greater Spotted Eagle that I noticed on the sprinklers earlier in the day.  This bird has been about for a few weeks joining the Marsh Harriers that can be seen almost every visit.

A pair of Little Egret were feeding by the side of the pond for a few moments as I crossed the road.  I stopped to have a chat with another birder, Mohammed Al Kharje who was patiently watching from his car.  When I returned to birding these guys had moved deep into the fields and I did not get close again.

As I walked further along the side of the fields I a bird flushed from close by but did not go far before settling again.  This Daurian Shrike is one of a number that reside in the area but today I only spotted this one.

The Grey Shrike was a bit more common about the place today and I spotted at least two at opposite ends of the fields.

They are never particularly eager to let you get close but at least you get to see them.
The Dove/Pigeon family were well represented with a good number of Namaqua Doves seen and the usual throng of Laughing Dove and Feral or Rock Pigeon.  There were also a small number of Collared Dove feeding in the fields.

This is not a great shot but at least it gives an idea of the number of Little Green Bee Eaters about today.  This group were on one bush with a few more a little higher

I could not get close to this Bluethroat at all as every time I tried he disappeared into the bush and stayed there.  Anyway I hope you can see him reasonably well, even if he is hiding.

I have not seen very many Silverbills about at all this year yet and this one was part of a small flock of 8 or 10.  I am not sure if its because I am in the wrong place or they just are not about much this year.

The Spanish Sparrow was about again today though not in great numbers.  This in a way surprises me as they are generally one of the most common birds about the place. 

Anyway another great mornings birding.  The Barn Swallows were spotted in the fields feeding again however I did not make it over to the other side of the river on this occasion to see how their nests were coming along.