Friday, 9 March 2012

Pipits and wagtail at Baha

Do you ever imagine your dream list before you go somewhere birding?  Well, for the pipits of Baha I knew in advance that Tawny pipit was likely as it is known to winter in SW Arabia in numbers. I also knew from my Helms guide that Long billed pipit breeds there along with a very few Richard's pipit though I could't find out from anyone in advance where exactly they were meant to be. Tree pipit and Red throated pipit were a possibility either wintering or on passage. I thought meadow pipit highly unlikely as I was very lucky to see a few south of Riyadh this winter (and photograph one). They don't really come as far south as Baha as far as I know.

tawny pipit

In the end I did see large numbers of tawny pipit. They were very variable and I decided to photograph every one I saw on the off chance I might find a Richard's pipit when wading through the photos on return. Alas, there was no Richard's pipit.

young tawny pipit

The better new was that I saw the first (second, third and fourth) long billed pipit of my life.

long billed pipit

The small flock was in a different place from the tawny pipit just as predicted in my Helms guide to the Middle east. Whereas the the tawny pipit were in the cultivated areas especially in the fallow fields, the long billed pipit were in the more natural, wilder slopes with boulders and some grass. 

second long billed pipit

I didn't find bill length much help in identification. Instead the greyer backs, markings below the throat, stronger rufous- buff colour of the underbelly and cinnamon-grey outer tail feathers were more helpful. Apparently the last two features are special to the SW Arabian populations and make identification easier. They certainly helped me!

I had no luck with red throated pipit or tree pipit and  I suspect this is because I didn't visit any places being watered. I had found them both in Libya on passage in watered places alongside yellow wagtail. So I didn't see yellow wagtail either!

white wagtail

I don't know whether the two pipits and yellow wagtail were there in Baha at that time or whether I just didn't visit wet enough habitat.  On the other hand, white wagtail was everywhere.

The next blog is the last one on Baha and I am calling it "the best of the rest" but that might be a bit insulting to some of the birds. For example it includes a look at a pair of Arabian woodpecker as well as some friendly Tristram's grackle .

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