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Friday, January 28, 2011

Sociable Lapwing

Short trip to the Dubai pivot fields to try and photograph a couple of Sociable Lapwing that weren't actually that "sociable" !  They were on open fields with zero cover so approaching them was very difficult.   Lot's of crawling around on my belly (not a pretty sight !).  The results are attached ,  not exactly the shots I was looking for but considering the shy nature of these birds I am quite happy.

 Sociable Lapwing
(Vanellus gregarius)
Sociable Lapwing
(Vanellus gregarius)

Sociable Lapwing
(Vanellus gregarius)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wadi Bih, Ras Al Khaimah 14.1.11

A belated blog I'm afraid.  Just didnt get the time to update during the week.  After the success of finding the Streak-Throated Swallow I went off to Wadi Bih in the Hajar Mountains not too far away from the Hirundine site.  Not too far in to the rocky Wadi is a small farm where the workers are quite amenable to you entering and having a wander round.   There was one small field growing some herb or small plant of some sort (not an expert on plants I'm afraid) which I discovered held several Bluethroat which were out of site most of the time.  However with iPod in hand I managed to coax a couple out with some Bluethroat song !

 Bluethroat
(Luscinia svecica)
Bluethroat
(Luscinia svecica)

Further in to the Wadi there is a quarry which has a number of pools nearby,  I had seen several Trumpeter Finch here last year when there was plenty of water around.  However they were pretty much dried out now and rains have been few and far between this winter so far (unusually).  I did find a small pool near a water outlet used for filling Water Tankers,  I spotted a group of approx 15 Chukar wandering to the pool so decided to position my 4x4 alongside and cover up as a hide.   Unfortunately I had spooked the Chukar sufficiently that they did not return in the 2 hours that I sat there, but fortunately several Finch did,  along with Striolated Bunting and Desert Lark.  Some of the Trumpeters were showing a lovely pink Hue which had not been present last year.

 Striolated Bunting
(Emberiza striolata)
 House Sparrow
(Passer domesticus)
 Desert Lark
(Ammomanes deserti)
 Trumpeter Finch
(Bucanetes githagineus)
 Trumpeter Finch
(Bucanetes githagineus)
 Striolated Bunting
(Emberiza striolata)

Trumpeter Finch
(Bucanetes githagineus)

Monday, January 17, 2011

In search of Streak-Throated Swallow 14.1.11

Mark and I decided it was a good time to go look for Streak-Throated Swallow at Ras Al Khaimah Water Treatment Plant in the North of the UAE.  Three had been observed the week before.  An early start was called for as this was a 1.5 Hour drive from Dubai and we wanted to stop off at first light at Umm al Quain mangroves to see if we could pick up anything.  I wanted to find Great Knot for my UAE list.  We arrived just as day was breaking,  the area was calm, many birds roosting including 30-40 Crab Plover and equal numbers of Oystercatcher.  Whilst making our way along the shoreline we flushed a Greater Spotted Eagle from a Mangrove bush unseen by us.  The bird was no more than 20ft away,  amazing sight watching this magnificent bird take to the air !  Anyways my luck was in as we found several Knot amongst a flock of Bar-Tailed Godwit and other waders.  On the way out of the Mangroves my attention was drawn to a 'dog fight' coming closer to us,  we soon realised we were watching a Sparrow doing it's utmost to outwit a male Merlin as they both weaved around the sky eventually disappearing into the Mangrove,  the Merlin then retreated back to where it had come seemingly without it's meal.

So the day had got off to a great start,  off to Ras al Khaimah we set.  We eventally arrived at the water pits where we found huge numbers of Pallid Swift (probably more than 1000) dominating the skies along with pale Crag Martin, House Martin, Barn Swallow and Sand Martin.   I was amazed at the sheer quantity of insects in the air,  they were in my mouth , eyes, they were everywhere - not for the faint-hearted! 

How were we going to find the small number of Streak-Throated Swallow amongst these hundreds of other Hirundines and Swifts  ?   As luck would have it and had been suggested by other birders , many of the Swallows and Martins were resting on distant Telegraph wires including the ST Swallow !.   Because of this distance good photos were impossible,  however I have included what I could manage,  I have included some shots of Pallid Swift and Pale Crag Martin. 

I will definitely be returning as this is an amazing experience with some good photo opportunities.

Here you see two Streak-Throated Swallow (left),
a House Martin and Barn Swallow

Two Streak-Throated Swallow

 Pallid Swift
(Apus pallidus)
 Pallid Swift
(Apus pallidus)
 Pallid Swift
(Apus pallidus)
 Pale Crag Martin
(Ptyonoprogne obsoleta)
Pale Crag Martin
(Ptyonoprogne obsoleta)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Buff-Bellied Pipit 12.1.11

Took an hour at first light this morning to look for the 3rd time for a reported Buff-Bellied Pipit at the Pivot Fields. Not an easy task with so many Water Pipits about !  Tried to get close with my beanbag for a low angle shot but the bird was having nothing of it.   So trekked back to the car for my Tripod hoping that I would be able to re-find the Pipit.  Surprisingly enough (and you would know why if you knew me) I actually did re-find it :-)

The bird was very shy and with no cover I had to opt for a longer range shot from the Tripod so results not too good.  But hey it was a lifer !

Also had enough time to capture two lovely Stonechat, a Daurian Isabelline Shrike and a Graceful Prinia at the same time.

 Buff-Bellied Pipit
(Anthus rubescens)
 Buff-Bellied Pipit
(Anthus rubescens)
 Daurian Isabelline Shrike
(Lanius isabellinus)
Graceful Prinia
(Prinia gracilis )

 European Stonechat
(Saxicola torquatus)
European Stonechat
(Saxicola torquatus)



Monday, January 10, 2011

Mourning Wheatears at Jebel Dhanna 8.1.10

Happy New Year to you all,  this is my first blog of 2011 !

There had been recent reports of a small group of Eastern Mourning Wheatears in Jebel Dhanna which is about a 3 hour drive from Dubai.   They had been spotted in a facility owned by an oil company and so permission had to be sought for access.  Fortunately there are a number of birders who work there and permission seemed to be an easy process given that I was to be escorted by one of those birders !   So having decided that I would make an early start on Saturday morning I made an early night of it.   I had decided to get up at 4am (now I know I'm definitely mad) which for me is REALLY early - although some of the UAE birders will laugh at that as 'luxury' knowing they regulalrly travel to far flung places at even earlier hours than that !!

So still half asleep I set off for the long journey to JD.   After about an hour I had reached Abu Dhabi and I noticed that visibility was starting to reduce and all too soon I was in the middle of a 'pea-souper'  (english term for thick fog !).  It was patchy but nevertheless slowed me down somewhat - I eventually arrived at JD about 8:30am, and subsequently struggled to find my contact in the fog :-).   Eventually we found each other and made our way to the site where we sat it out for a couple of hours till the fog lifted,  the sun was shining but the humidity was intense.  Unfortunately I had missed the best light of the day but 'que sera sera'.   I saw at least 4 of them and possibly 5 or 6 but difficult to tell as they were moving around a lot.  There were no organic perches for the birds either so I had to make do with Stand Pipes and Fencing - not ideal.  I did manage a few shots though so I was relatively happy.   With a few shots in the bag it was now time to make my way back to Dubai - too tired to really make any more bird stops,  "wimp"  I hear you all shout !  Well I am knocking on a bit now :-)

Eastern Mourning Wheatear 4
Desert Wheatear 2
Isabelline Wheatear 2
Common Kestrel 3
Marsh Harrier 1
Skylark 50
Meadow pipit 2
Water pipit 4


Eastern Mourning Wheatear
(Oenanthe lugens)
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
(Oenanthe lugens)

Eastern Mourning Wheatear
(Oenanthe lugens)