Friday, 13 September 2013

Unexpected birds in the fields

Today, I birded around the pivot fields at Al Hayer and then moved on to the farming district of Dirab.

Sadly, all the collared pratincole seen last week have gone from the fields. However the passage has a long way to go. 

There were again plenty of blue-cheeked bee-eater

Blue-cheeked bee-eater

In spring they are out numbered 4 or 5 to one by European bee-eater yet this autumn so far these ratios have been reversed. Indeed today I didn't see any.

grey heron

It's difficult to know which members of the heron family are passage, wintering and resident since we get all three categories for most of the heron family. Indeed only great white egret and European bittern of the common members don't breed here. 

Today, I saw several purple heron, grey heron, squacco heron, black crowned night heron and a single cattle egret at Al Hayer. Most were first seen just after dawn when there is a lot of short distance movement among them.

a flock of mallard

On the fields, the most unexpected feature was the degree of grazing by our resident mallard duck. They have been noticed in small numbers in the fields early in the morning for the past couple of weeks. Today I counted 30 in two separate fields (the ones with tall growth).  I think the mallards have worked out that they are unlikely to be shot at on this private ground.  I wonder if other ducks will do this in the winter?

squacco heron

Squacco heron were found in the same places.

greater short toed lark

Joining the house sparrow, Spanish sparrow, streaked weaver, crested lark  and Indian silverbill in the shorter fields today were about 100 greater short toed lark and similar numbers of yellow wagtail.

barn swallow

Alongside the barn swallow over the fields today were at least three common swift. I didn't see a single sand martin today in stark contrast to last weekend.

white throated kingfisher

There is no doubt in my mind that the population of white throated kingfisher has increased in my two and a bit years visiting Al Hayer. There are now much more readily seen on pivot bars.

lesser grey shrike

A passing lesser grey shrike was also seen on a bar. A masked shrike and Daurian shrike were observed in near-by trees and bushes.

great reed warbler

I am still not seeing large numbers and variety of warblers. Today there were plenty of graceful prinia as usual. One eastern olivaceous warbler gave a good show in an acacia and the above great reed warbler was observed. It let me see it for so long because it was pre-occupied with shaking off soot it had accumulated.  Let me explain...

Friday morning, Al Hayer is especially popular with fishermen. Many of them only have one day off so I can't begrudge them their hobby even though birding the water front is pretty much impossible then. There is always Saturday to do that. However, some of the fishermen are clumsy with fire especially when they cook their catch.  

Two significant fires last weekend destroyed large tracts of tamarisk and acacia near the pivot fields. The great reed warbler I saw must have ventured into the sooty remains. I am sure this one will be all right so long as it doesn't keep going it.

rufous bush robin

I was pleasantly surprised to spot two rufous bush robin at Al Hayer. I thought they all might have left by now. We have summer breeders and passage birds here.

pallid harrier at dawn

There is still no sign of the winter's eagles yet. The same old female marsh harrier was patrolling the fields as last week. However almost the first sighting at dawn this morning were two pallid harrier. My best guess is that they roosted over-night and are continuing south since that was the last I saw of them.


Just before I left for Dirab I spotted a lone ruff next to the car  in the same place as one seen two weeks ago.

Namaqua dove at Al Hayer

En route to Dirab, I stopped briefly outside an agricultural research centre to look at a row of trees which have been the roost for many tens of black kite for the past two winters. As expected none were to be seen. However a lone brown necked raven was perched on one of the trees.

brown necked raven

The stop at Dirab was necessarily short as the weather was hotting up towards midday and that still meant 40C today.

cattle egret, little egret and hoopoe at Dirab

My fairly random choice of field to investigate turned out quite interesting. The watering technique here was totally different to that at Al Hayer. In this field the pivot bars move extremely slowly and so the filed is completely waterlogged next to the pivot.  It was like a very narrow moving paddyfield.

It proved popular with cattle egret and a single little egret. There were no streaked weaver or Spanish sparrow here but very large numbers of house sparrow.

kestrel at Dirab

Yellow wagtail were fully expected in this habitat but wood sandpiper were not. Alone with the mallards at Al Hayer, this was my second unexpected bird in a field today.

some of the 25 wood sandpiper at Dirab

I counted 25 wood sandpiper in the wet land next to the pivot.

yellow wagtail at Dirab

This was quite an interesting end to the day. This field will be worth more visits if the same watering technique continues to be used.

List of birds seen today (46 species)   D = Dirab, H = Al Hayer 
Mallard  H
Black crowned night heron  H
Grey heron  H
Purple heron  H
Cattle egret  H,D

Little egret D
Squacco heron  H
Common moorhen  H

Kestrel  D
Marsh harrier  H
Pallid harrier  H
Common quail  H
Ruff  H
Wood sandpiper  D
Rock pigeon  H,D
Namaqua dove  H,D
Laughing dove  H,D
Collared dove  H,D
Barn swallow  H,D
Plae crag martin  H
Common swift  H
Hoopoe  H,D
White throated kingfisher  H
Little green bee-eater  H,D

Blue cheeked bee-eater  H,D
Masked shrike  H
Lesser grey shrike  H
Asian grey shrike (aucheri)  H
Daurian shrike  H
Brown necked raven  D
White-eared bulbul  H,D
Crested lark  H,D
Greater short toed lark  H,D
Graceful prinia  H,D
Great reed warbler  H
Eastern olivaceous warbler  H

Common myna  H,D
Black bush robin  H,D
Rufous bush robin  H
Blackstart  H,D
Isabelline wheatear H
House sparrow  H,D
Spanish sparrow  H
Streaked weaver  H
Indian silverbill  H
Yellow wagtail  H,D
Ortolan bunting  H

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