Wednesday 7 May 2014

One late afternoon at the university farm

We had unseasonably hot temperatures two weeks ago which reached 42C for almost a week. This is fully 8C higher than usual for late April. I thought the passage had finished early but in fact it looks very much like it was halted. Now the temperatures have dropped right back and there are signs that a backlog of passage is trying to make up for lost time.

This might explain so many sightings at Al Hayer and East Salbukh over the weekend.

It could also explain why my walk home through the half-closed university farm was so successful on Sunday evening.

female rufous tailed rock thrush

I visited the garden area first. Up one of the four tall trees was a rufous tailed rock thrush. I have never seen one in a tree before never mind such a tall one. It's supposed to like rocks.

It could be the same bird as the one seen 6 days before near-by.

spotted flycatcher

In the next tree along and also up high was a spotted flycatcher. I also observed a common redstart shoot across the grass towards the tree but lost sight of it.

In the small grove next to the garden was a red backed shrike which was similarly shy.

willow warbler

Four willow warbler were seen at the far side of the bushes which turned out to be an omen as to what was to come a few minutes later.

Having finished with the area in front of the buildings I moved to the back where there are now only two tomato patches and an area where very small scale cereals are grown like an allotment. 

tree pipit

On the way I found a tree pipit.  

common whitethroat

In the small allotment itself was a bonanza of warblers.  There were at least six willow willow, three common whitethroat and Upcher's warbler as well as fifteen or so house sparrow.

The warblers spent a lot of time perched on the wire fence separating the allotment from the tomato patch.

head of an Upcher's warbler

I tried hard to get a straight photograph of the Upcher's warbler. The trouble was not that it was shy, far from it. Instead the problem was it kept perching half through the wire, half on one side and half on the other. All the time it was pumping its tail in typical Upcher's fashion. 

Upcher's warbler clinging to a fence

For a while this was the best photo I managed.

common whitethroat

In the allotment itself the cereals often obscured the birds. This was true of the common whitethroat too. Eventually both species came out into the open.

Upcher's warbler on the ground

I then went scouting around the cereal patch in the hope rather than expectation of seeing a locustella warbler. I wasn't that lucky. Though I did pick up a whinchat which I had previously missed


The picture below shows the allotments. It makes them look larger than they are.

"allotment" at the farm

All in all, it was a very good hour's birding at the end of a work day. Just as I was leaving I heard European bee-eater. Another flock had arrived to gorge on the local experimental bees.


  1. What's in a name Rob? I rarely see Willow Warblers in Willows, Tree Pipits are normally in tall shrubs, and Spotted Flycatchers are actually striped (striated)! ;-).....envious of the Spring passage, as usual -

    Laurie -

  2. The spring passage has been spotty this time. Some days nothing others very busy. I'm off to Abha this weekend and if the weather holds off it could be exciting. Rob