Friday, 27 September 2013

Hundreds of levant sparrowhawks at Rabigh

This blog may sound emphatic but it has a message! The message is that the autumn passage down the eastern side of the Red Sea coast is big and that includes important numbers of at least some raptors.

My birding friend Brian James reports that saw 500 levant sparrowhawk over Wadi Rabigh this Monday September 23rd. Yet the Helms regional guide says "passage hatched (referring to the map) but rare Saudi Arabia." 

Rare.... hmm. In its defence, the guide is presenting received wisdom.

juvenile levant sparrowhawk cooling off

It's a known phenomenon that thousands of these birds pass over the Bosphorus and through Eilat over a concentrated 2 or 3 day period at the same time every year. However people (for example in the Helms guide) have assumed they all go south west. Well, a significant proportion clearly goes south east too. 

There weren't any levant sparrowhawk at Wadi Rabigh on September 21st because I was there with Brian then but we had expected them any day. However, I knew I was probably 2 or 3 days early. 

It unlikely that Brian saw all those that chose the south east route. I suspect some passed through the day before and after. 
levant sparrowhawk (with a few other raptors) over Wadi Rabigh 

When I was with Brian two days before we were picking up lots of honey buzzard and some eagles. And just as with the honey buzzard earlier, a small number of the levant sparrowhawk came down to drink in the fresh waters of Wadi Rabigh.

juvenile and adult levant sparrowhawk

I have little expertise with levant sparrowhawk but I do know that females have dark outer primaries and I assume the bird below is female.

All birds including juveniles have a vertical throat mark as nicely shown in the top picture.

adult levant sparrowhawk stretching wings

September 23rd is Saudi Arabia's National Day and always a holiday so I have a good chance to be in the right place at the right time next year. 

I'd like to thank Brian again for the information and the pictures which were all taken by him. I am very grateful.

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