Thursday 11 April 2013

Mansur's two lifers in Zulfi

I have already written about some of Mansur Al Fahad's visit to Zulfi at the end of last month. Those blogs were about owls and birds of prey. This third instalment is about large passerines and non-passerines.

He got two lifers among these birds. One was Egyptian nightjar. It is known to breed in southern Iraq and south west Iran. It moves through Saudi Arabia on passage earlier than European nightjar. The end of March is probably the best time to see it.

Egyptian nightjar

He saw it in Al Soblah national park which is 20 km east of Zulfi. The area is protected from hunting and even more importantly from grazing. This makes excellent tree and bush cover available. It also means the nightjar is less likely to be disturbed than in most places. He told me he passed the place just before sunset and was expecting some good birding! There is more on this in future blogs. 

Another bird which migrates relatively early is hypocolius. At least it leaves the Riyadh area early but Zulfi is a lot closer to its breeding grounds. It is not a surprise to me that he observed nearly one hundred birds in a deserted village with old palms near Zulfi. 

Bimaculated lark

Lou Regenmorter and I saw bimaculated lark when we visited Zulfi nearly two months ago. It is a winter visitor to northern parts of Saudi Arabia and doesn't really visit as far south as Riyadh 200 kilometres away. At least one bird was still present and Mansur told me it was his second lifer from this group of birds. 

great short toed lark

Greater short toed lark are almost (but not quite) as variable in looks as lesser short toed lark. Mansur told me this created some identification challenges. 


Other notably birds that Mansur has reported include wryneck. he saw this one near where he saw the hen harrier (see a previous blog) which was north west of Zulfi. Either wryneck are more numerous this passage or we are getting better at knowing where to look. I have seen and photographed several in the past 3 weeks. 

Daurian shrike

As elsewhere in central Arabia, Turkestan shrike and Daurian shrike are extremely common in late March/early April as the wintering bird population are swollen by the migrants from further south and west.

Asian grey shrike (pallidirostris)

Zulfi (being towards the north eat of the country) is on a major flyway for returning Asian grey shrike (pallidirostris) formerly called steppe grey shrike.

woodchat shrike

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, woodchat shrike is the earliest of all the shrikes to return north in spring. Indeed  I haven't seen a red backed shrike yet this spring and I was extremely surprised to see a lesser grey shrike near Riyadh last week.  Both are generally much later than woodchat shrike.


Finally Mansur says that hoopoe were everywhere!

In the next blog I report on the lifer I saw on the way to work on Wednesday as well as other good sightings on the same day.

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