Thursday 9 February 2012

The first hint of the spring passage

I noticed the first signs of the spring passage at Al Hayer pivot fields today.

It all started when I bumped into two of the local wildlife photographers in a different part of wadi hanifah. After exchanging greetings, they showed me a picture of an unknown shrike taken today which I identified as a woodchat shrike.  

I asked where they had seen it and they replied "in the farms". Actually I rather stupidly didn't ask them for any more detailed directions.

Nevertheless, on my walk round the fields I came across one, it may have been the one they saw or maybe not! 

woodchat shrike

I haven't seen a woodchat shrike all winter unlike a few masked shrike for example so I am assuming this one was a passage bird. It allowed me very close which could easily have been due to tiredness. The books and previous observers in the area also mark it down as a passage bird.

second view of the masked shrike

There were other signs of the passage too. The pivot fields have a much higher density of both Isabelline wheatear and desert wheatear.  I know from past experience that Isabelline wheatear are one of the first birds to move back north. However, the gathering of desert wheatear was a new phenomenon for me. 

one of today's female desert wheatear

Desert wheatear has the largest black band in the upper tail of any wheatear. I managed to capture a bird in flight which showed this feature.

desert wheatear in flight

Finally one of the clearest signs of the passage was my first sighting of barn swallow in the area since the very beginning of November. Things are going to get hectic very soon.


  1. please send me a email so i can share the photo i showed you last thursday of the woodchat shrike, here's my email

  2. Will do! It was a great bird to see.