Monday, 4 March 2013

More from Zulfi

As well as birding for larks in the Zulfi area, Lou Regenmorter and I spent time looking for other birds. Indeed we were in the field before dawn on both weekend days and on Thursday at dusk. This was to look for pharaoh eagle owl. Despite this supreme effort we were unsuccessful.

Since I  recently both  hooded wheatear and Egyptian vulture, I have a new set of Nemesis birds - birds I should have seen given the effort but haven't. Top of this list is pharaoh eagle owl.

woodchat shrike

With so much time spent looking for larks and for owls (we tried for little owl in a known place but failed with that one too), it is surprising we managed to see so many other birds.

There was a distinct feel of passage. We saw more woodchat shrike on passage than Daurian shrike (presumed winterer) or resident Asian grey shrike (aucheri). Woodchat shrike is the earliest of shrike passage birds. Indeed at my home in Bulgaria it beats red backed shrike back by a full month.

Blue rock thrush
Blue rock thrush can be seen almost anywhere on passage. This was was on a dead tree stump in a field.

Isabelline wheatear

Wheatears are some of the earliest passage birds. In fact the wheatear passage is normally mostly over before the main warbler passage begins. Plenty of Isabelline wheatear, northern wheatear and pied wheatear were seen. None of these breeds in the Zulfi area.

Pied wheatear

A few desert wheatear were lingering from winter and two resident white crowned wheatear were seen on the escarpment slopes.

Tawny pipit (presumed first winter)

White wagtail and tawny pipit were fairly numerous but surprisingly we didn't see a single yellow wagtail.

European stonechat

In the Riyadh area, nearly all wintering stonechat are Eastern stonechat but we came across at least one European stonechat in Zulfi.

Asian desert warbler

Asian desert warbler were still around from winter and true to form were sometimes seen in the presence of desert wheatear.

Reservoirs in Zulfi

One of the more interesting features at Zulfi are reservoirs but they are closed off to the general public. However they can be viewed at a distance from the hills. Even from our distant vantage point we could see some of the larger birds such spur winged lapwing, coot, shoveler, mallard, ruff and black winged stilt. There were almost certainly smaller birds present in or around the reservoirs that we couldn't pick up.

flowers on ungrazed land

Another interesting feature is a park on top of the escarpment to the south east of the city. Here grazing by animals such as camels and goats is banned and you can see how the general landscape would look without the herds.

We spent about half an hour walking round this area.

Long legged buzzard

It was here we saw a long legged buzzard probably attracted by the large population of small lizards. It was only the second bird of prey we saw in all our time at Zulfi. The other was a kestrel in a farm field down on the plain.

Mansur has reported steppe eagle during the winter but we saw none. 

There were plenty of dead sheep and goats on the escarpment which had remained untouched by vultures or eagles or even brown necked raven. This is more evidence of the lack of birds of prey. 

The only brown necked raven we observed were half way back to Riyadh on the journey home.

desert finch

In some ways I regret we spent so much time  searching for larks and owls that we didn't spend longer in the farms.  Hints of what there might hold was seen at two farm stops. At one stop on the north side, in tamarisk were desert finch and chiffchaff with graceful prinia near-by.

helmeted guineafowl

Another stop at a farm on the south side yielded a single field with an ecletic mix of crested lark, bimaculated lark, white wagtail, collared dove and most strangely helmeted guineafowl.

   European collared dove

I had seen genuinely wild helmeted guineafowl just two weeks before at Wadi Juwa on the Yemen border. I didn't expect to see them again over 1100 kilometres away. I have no idea whether they were escapes or captive.

Arabian red fox seen just before dusk

Finally, I want to add that while searching for pharaoh eagle owl around dusk one evening I found myself looking face to face with an Arabian red fox. It was a beautifully serene moment. I was far enough away that he didn't seem threatened. He just stopped and stared. He almost made up for the fact that the owl was never seen.

List of birds seen over the weekend prepared by Lou Regenmorter.

Northern Shoveler
Greater Short- toed Lark
Desert Lark
Long Legged Buzzard
Bar-tailed Lark
Common Kestrel
Temminck's Lark
Common Coot
Crested Lark
Cream-coloured Courser,
Pale Crag Martin
Black-winged Stilt
Barn Swallow
Spur-winged Lapwing
Asian Desert Warbler
Feral Pigeon
Graceful Prinia
Rock Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Isabelline Wheatear
Laughing Dove
Northern Wheatear
Namaqua Dove
Pied Wheatear
Desert Wheatear
Little Green Bee-eater
White Crowned Wheatear
Woodchat Shrike
Blue rock Thrush
Asian Grey Shrike (aucheri)
House Sparrow
Brown Necked Raven
White Wagtail
White-eared Bulbul
Tawny Pipit
Greater Hoopoe Lark
Desert Finch
Bimaculated Lark
Helmeted guineafowl (domestic or feral)

No comments:

Post a Comment