Sunday 19 February 2012

The sandstorm ends

On Thursday afternoon, after a difficult morning,  the sandstorm reported in my last blog slowly started to subside.

Some of  the first birds to re-appear from shelter were the shrikes.

Turkestan shrike

I have been seeing Turkestan shrike and Daurian shrike all winter. On Thursday one Turkestan shrike was again seen, boldly perching atop pivot wire.

one of the lagoons near Al Hayer

On a bush not far away was a member of the great grey shrike complex.  I didn't analyse which sub species this time.  

great grey shrike

A woodchat shrike was also in the vicinity. It may have been the same bird I saw last week in another field 350 metres away.

woodchat shrike

However, one of the most noticeable features of Thursday afternoon's birding was not the shrikes. It was the density of hoopoe. I counted seven. Whereas all winter I have been lucky to see one or two in a session. The situation for this bird is complicated. There appear to be a small number of residents, a slightly swollen number in winter and apparently larger numbers still on passage. Thursday must have been a passage day.


One category of bird which was well down on similar days this year was birds of prey. I didn't notice any of the larger ones. I had to make do with two marsh harrier, one sparrowhawk and of course the more numerous kestrel


Whatever the weather or time of year, you are guaranteed to see the resident little green bee-eater at Al Hayer. In addition, it won't be long until the regular passage of blue cheeked bee-eater and European bee-eater heads through. The earliest records from previous observers are March 8th and March 18th respectively.

little green bee-eater

Unusually, herons and egrets weren't very much in evidence. I only saw one grey heron. Apparently there is no evidence of them breeding at Al Hayer unlike purple heron, little bittern, squacco heron, and black crowned night heron for example. I'll need to keep an eye out to see when the grey heron leave. 

grey heron

Many of the doves were still keeping low after the sandstorm including the namaqua dove below. I have started to look for turtle dove on passage but I researched last night and found they have been surprisingly uncommon and late. Mid April has been reported as the best time to see any.

namaqua dove

Of the small birds, both house sparrow and graceful prinia were very easy to see.

house sparrow

As I have mentioned before, graceful prinia are very bold at the moment. I put this down to the fact that the central Arabian spring is in the air.

graceful prinia

There is still some time to study the stonechats before they leave. The one below is European but many and probably majority are eastern stonechat according to most observers.

The next blog will be a tribute to the winter visitors as they get ready to leave in the coming days and weeks. 

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