Wednesday 3 April 2013

The urban farm revisited

I am keen to get birding this weekend properly having been away form Saudi Arabia last week. Until then my only birding is while I walk to work.

Luckily the walk includes a small urban farm and some natural looking waste land.

I was going to write that there have been relatively few passage birds recently but I saw two new ones this morning on the way in. I will save these sightings for a later blog.

Meanwhile this blog concentrates on what has been seen just before and just after my break.

pied wheatear

First let me say that the wave of pied wheatear is still continuing. Its been 5 or 6 weeks since I saw the first one on the way to work and yet there are still coming. There are just as many females among them now. It seems to be a well known phenomenon that male wheatears on average return earlier than females.

Turkestan shrike

Several shrikes were seen at the edge of the farm just before my break. Mansur Al Fahad was with me after work when we saw two red tailed shrike and I thank him for these pictures.  Separating the two types of red tailed shrike is often difficult but this one is a Turkestan shrike. Even though the supercilium isn't very strong, it has an obviously contrasting red crown (as well as forehead) compared with the mantle, the under parts are relatively clean and the black mask is strong and definitively bridges across the bill. 

The main contra-indication is the the tail which is paler towards the rump than at the tip. This is more of a Daurian shrike characteristic.

Daurian shrike

The second bird is slightly more difficult but I am still confident. Remember I have had lots of practice with these two birds! Its a female type or first year with no obvious contrast between head and mantle, a very weak supercilium and mask. The under parts aren't clean either. It looks like a Daurian shrike.

Asian grey shrike (pallidirostis)

I now use Dutch birding classification of the grey shrikes found in Saudi Arabia. Most are either the resident Asian grey shrike (aucheri) formerly classified as a type of "southern grey shrike" or wintering Asian grey shrike (pallidirostris) formerly called steppe grey shrike.

This bird is pallidirostis most quickly recognised, from the angle I saw it, at this time of year by the buff wash rather than pink wash that aucheri has on the front.

rose ringed parakeet

An usually sighting at the farm when both Mansur Al Fahad and I were there together was a rose ringed parakeet.  This is a bird mostly of the ex pat compounds and large gardens in the city. The photograph of this bird and of the dove and myna below are all courtesy of Mansur Al Fahad.

laughing dove

Meanwhile all the resident birds on the farm seem to have newly fledged off spring. there are plenty of young laughing dove, collared dove, white eared bulbul and yellow vented bulbul around.

common myna

I'll post on my more recent sightings on the way to work in the future. Before then I have some excellent reports and photos from Mansur Al Fahad from his recent visit to Zulfi. Hopefully there will also be some findings from me this coming weekend too.

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