Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A weekend in the Nursery

This last weekend (28/5/16) I headed further south off my usual patch at Al Hayer and to say the least it was a little voyage of discovery and excitement for me.  I will add another blog later on the other stuff but this lot had all the joys of love and romance, then the reality of the kids about them...

 As I walked towards the little lake there was a heck of a lot of noise overhead with a Little Ringed Plover screeching overhead.  Then another as I walked along, soon I came across this bird with what appeared to be an injured wing.
 It shot up and down on the tiny island in the middle of a small pool, flapping about and dragging its wing alongside.  Classic Plover defence behaviour.  I did not see where the eggs were and took the opportunity to follow the parent away from the site.  But I think its fairly clear there are breeding Little Ringed Plovers in the area.
 In the lake itself there were Coot and Moorhen both with young fledglings in tow.  This Moorhen chick must have been feeling a bit brave or suicidal, there are a lot of Herons and White Throat Kingfishers etc. about who have been known to like a bit of baby bird.
 Speaking of White Throated Kingfishers, apologies for the poor photos but these were a long way off.  Here are three together which I thought was odd.  You often see them in pairs but three is a little strange.  As I focused in it appeared that one (the dot on the right) was duller and browner than the others and I think is a Juvenile.
 Moments later one moved up to the hole which I now believe is their nest.  Looking up my bird books I note that Helm does not show these at all in the area, clearly wrong as I see them every week.  However, most of the others show them as occasional sightings and Mike Jennings (Atlas of Breeding Birds of Arabia) has them as probable breeders in the area.  Hopefully these photos will go some way to proving they are breeding here.  Anyhow I doubt anyone who birds around the area regularly would doubt for a moment that they breed here.  There are at least 3 pairs I know of around Al Hayer fields and several further up towards the Al Hayer village bridge. More anon.
 Just a little shot of some Coots and young
Also breeding on the lake are a couple of pair of Black Winged Stilts and if you want to know where the partner was the answer is dive bombing me!!  No I was not very close at all, but I guess he did not like me on the same planet at that point.

 A second sitting bird.
 Ok this one you'll have to take on trust.  This photo I got of one of the parents but below it in the reeds was the other parent and a recently fledged young bird.  Unfortunately reeds and autofocus on bridge cameras don't mix very well.
 The last two photos are one of the colonies of Streaked Weavers that are all around the reed beds here.  I think these two females are busy checking out the males efforts, if she like she may move in!
Meanwhile one of the males puts some finishing touches to his creation.

A very interesting trip and delightful to see my local patch is such a hive of breeding activity.  There are a couple more I am keeping my eye on at the moment, but I won't say more until I get some sort of proof.

© Bernard Bracken

Monday, 30 May 2016

A dry patch for once

By and large the patch was dry today (7/5/16), a change from the past few months where the river had pretty much taken over large areas.  I arrived at 5:45am and set out to see what was about.  As ever I was not disappointed, although a bit later in the day the temperatures were getting very high and walking was strenuous.

House sparrows were on view almost everywhere today as always, Unlike the UK the population of these is quite healthy considering we are in the middle of the desert.  They are especially common in the city where they roost, very noisily, in the roadside trees.
The White Eared Bulbul were also about in good numbers although not as many as I have seen around this place in the past.  
I saw about 8 to 10 Common Moorhen around the area and there are a number of younger birds about too so as ever they have been breeding successfully.  I got this rather distant shot of one of them, unfortunately most views were of them vanishing into the reeds when they saw me coming.  A by product of the craze that some folk have here for shooting anything that moves I suspect.
The Spanish Sparrow are o be found in good numbers in the fields and all available trees at the moment.  Another prolific breeder I spent some time just watching them come and go from one of the nests, although this particular one watched me for a while before leaving the nest then took off and did not come back for a long time.
Also in the breeding season are the Indian Silverbills.  This one was working on the nest which is just visible behind.
Another picture of the nest from a different angle. 
Collared Dove are about the area a lot although not in huge numbers.  They are not quite as flighty as their smaller Laughing Dove cousins.
Warbler?   -- Razor sharp birder here eh?? I'm still looking to this
The Rufous Tailed Scrub Robin is a common visitor to the area and there have been one or two around this past few weeks.  You never see very many of these but when they are about its not difficult to see them as they can be pretty inquisitive.
Our old friend the Graceful Prinia was making himself heard all along the reed beds today as ever.  These are tiny little birds but punch way above their weight in the singing and calling department.
A bird I have not seen for quite a while appeared back last time I was here and has been around since.  The Red Backed Shrike is a beautiful and very welcome visitor to the area.
Another Indian Silverbill
Now last week I struggled to get within 150 meters of a White Throated Kingfisher as he kept flying off as I got closer.  This week there were two in the same small bush.  That said I think the one last week was a different bird as I he was about 1-2 km further south along the river.
Also in that same bush were 2 Sparrows and a Little Green Bee Eater.  Definitely the place to be today it seems.
A quick shot of the two Kingfishers and Sparrows.  The Bee Eater had left by this point.
It’s the Streaked Weaver Season and these guys are nesting by the riverside all along the riverbank
Wood Sandpiper
Another Shot of a Red Backed Shrike, this is a different bird, the first one having been seen about a kilometre further south.
A solo Black Winged Stilt was feeding in the small area of flooded ground in the middle field by the road.
One of the many Crested Larks about the place every day.
A Curlew Sandpiper in summer plumage and a Common Sandpiper in the background.
Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint I think.
One of Spur Winged Lapwing in the fields today. I spotted these earlier in the lower field but they flew off before I got close. This one was actively chasing away other birds in the field.
Flypast from a Purple Heron. There were quite a few of these in the area today.
A couple of Rock Dove on the sprinkler arm, there were quite a few in the field feeding on grain left over from the last crop.
Just as I was about to leave this Spotted Flycatcher arrived at the trees close to where I stood. A lovely looking bird. 

Headed home having had a very interesting day.

@Bernard Bracken

Friday, 13 May 2016

Al Hayer again, but maybe needing an X rating this time!

Travelled back down to Al Hayer again this weekend as its a mix of passage season and breeding season so there is lots going on about the place.  So on 26th of April I headed off and arrived around 6.30am.  The weather was warm but not as hot as of late.   As it turned out the day proved to be interesting for a number of reasons.  I am not sure I the final block of photos should carry an X rating but you can decide that for yourself.
I headed a bit further south than usual to check out a couple of small lakes.  At one point I turned and had this view of the area I normally explore, but from a slightly different angle.  This is the reed beds around the Al Hayer area.  A largish patch of green in the desert.
Everywhere the Graceful Prinia, White Eared Bulbul and Laughing Dove were going about their business as usual.  They are all very common in the area but have totally different personalities.

Early in the morning there are often single Purple Herons perched on the tops of trees.  There are relatively few tall trees around the area and these guys perch on the tallest.  I also saw a couple of Grey Heron flying south off in the distance, too far for decent photos.

Another regular around the area is the Black Scrub Robin which is usually found in the lower branches of trees and bushes except for early mornings when they perch on the treetops to sing.
I know, an absolutely terrible shot of a White Throated Kingfisher way in the distance.  I did follow for quite a way to see if I could get a better shot to no avail, he kept moving further away.  In any case I was pleased to see him as I have not seen any for a few weeks.
There were also a few Collared Dove around the area but few by comparison with the Laughing and Feral Doves which are always about in great numbers.
A visitor I have not seen around for some time is this wonderful Spotted Flycatcher.  This guy perched on a tree close by me and almost seemed as interested in me as I was in him.  Every now and again he would fly off but only to get another perch with a better view.
Another view of our friendly Spotted Flycatcher.
As regular readers will know I am no great identifier of warblers but I think this is a Great Reed Warbler. It was certainly a good deal bigger than the usual warblers around here.  Hmm, well appears i was wrong and there is a strong possibility this is a Basra Reed Warbler, thanks to Mansur and Jem for their assistance with this ID. Delighted now as these are not common here and a first for me :)
Flying over were a couple of Black Crowned Night Heron.  These come to the same area of reeds most years and i am pretty sure they breed there. Trouble is its right in the middle of the reed beds and virtually impossible to get to.

A little Green Bee Eater, or as Jem Babbington has reported recently, it has been renamed in some catalogues as the Arabian Green Bee Eater. There were a couple of these about today but not many.
On my way back to my usual patch I came across a couple of these guys in the trees.  I'm not sure what they are as yet, will update when I find out.  Cool, so the consensus on Bird Forum is a female Redstart.  I don't think I have seen one before. I have to say the jizz is right as is the eye ring but the rest looks almost nothing like any of the plates in my Id books.  Woohoo go birds :)
Another visitor I have not seen much recently is the Hoopoe.  This is the first one I have seen this year.
In stark contrast numbers are the Streaked Weaver which are back in the area in force. Literally hundreds of them around the reed beds;
This is just one small area of reeds for example.

As the fields are still flooded in places we are still getting some waders appearing in small numbers. This lone Sandpiper was feeding at one end of the flooded area with a couple more further down.
Curlew Sandpiper just coming into summer plumage, I could not get particularly close to these guys but was interesting to watch them for a while.
A small flock of Yellow Wagtails had stopped over to feed on the abundant seeds in the scrub area of the lower field. In all I counted 8 but there may have been more in the undergrowth.

Another regular, the Crested Lark were about in good numbers. Many were performing aerial acrobatics with a second bird in what I can only assume means there's love in the air.
I think this is one of four Willow Warblers the were out in the fields today.

I don't think that Indian Silverbills breeding in the area is exactly ground-breaking news but I got this sequence of shots which were interesting.

A flower for the lady perhaps? Wonder if she will like it?
Hmm, well she seems to like it.
Oh my, I seem to have invaded privacy here!!
Taking a look at the flower.
Not sure if they have fallen out now!!

Anyway, they both flew off a moment or so later so don't know if true love followed.

There are lots of different approaches to birding, some sit in cars and watch what happens from there, others travel huge distances to see their birds.  I mostly hang around the same area with the occasional away game, but I think you will agree, some days that pays dividends.

©Bernard Bracken.