Friday 6 September 2013

Full blown passage at Al Hayer

Another good day at Al Hayer today where the volume and quality of passage birds was high.

The waters were crowded with fishermen on their day off. This is a problem for birders on Friday but not on Saturday when many of the fisherman have to go back to work.

Either way, I made a decision to  abandon most of the water front birding in favour of the pivot fields. After seeing the results, I have few regrets. The weather was cooler due to some cloud cover but still in the very high 30s Celius. Birding felt relatively comfortable.

European roller

Very early on, I came upon a pivot bar with almost entirely blue and green birds perching. One was a very accommodating European roller. Unusually for his species, he didn't seem frightened of people.

European roller stretching

I left him in the end rather than him fly off.

white throated kingfisher

Two white throated kingfisher were sharing the bar. This bird is resident in the area but may be reinforced with extra wintering birds.

two white throated kingfishers

Also on the bar were two European bee-eater and over a dozen blue-cheeked bee-eater. It is the first time I have seen the latter bird this season.

blue cheeked bee-eater

Like the European roller they were quite tame (or tired?). 

several blue cheeked bee-eaters

This calm picture was in stark contrast to the neighbouring field where hundreds of passerines were foraging particularly around the water sprayers.

hundreds of Spanish sparrow and a few streaked weaver

Very large flocks of Spanish sparrow were moving like a shoal of fish. Smaller numbers of Indian silverbill and streaked weaver were also involved.

yellow wagtail (lutea)

Independently, large numbers of various sub species of yellow wagtail were raking the ground in this and other low growth fields. A significant number were lutea. This sub species breeds directly north of beema (Sykes wagtail) which was seen in numbers yesterday at the university farm.

great reed warbler in a field

I flushed two great reed warbler as I walked around the fields with higher growth. It seems to be good season to see them this time round. Once again the only other warblers seen were graceful prinia, (lots of habitat including the fields),  common whitethroat (bushes and trees) and a single Eastern olivaceous warbler (in a tree).

immature collared pratincole

A field which had just been bailed (and was being watered straight after) had a bumper number of collared pratincole present. I counted 58. Most were immatures but this time I observed a few adults too.

adult collared pratincole

Cattle egret and squacco heron spent most time in the same field.

common cuckoo (juvenile and rufous)

As I was walking to leave the fields, I came upon a juvenile common cuckoo. By the way we know it is juvenile rather than an adult female rufous morph by the white nape marks which you can just see in two of the photos but other photos which haven't been posted show it well. 

This bird allowed me prolonged views. 

common cuckoo stretching

Oriental cuckoo is very similar but labelled a "vagrant" in this region. However I suspect some may be over-looked when you consider they breed as far west as north eastern parts of European Russia. 

However, this bird is almost certainly a common cuckoo. My own research used "The Handbook of Bird Identification of Europe and the Western Palearctic" which says of juveniles that the underparts' barring is even from throat to belly in oriental cuckoo but contrastingly closer on breast than on belly in a common cuckoo

common cuckoo on the ground

Five types of shrike were seen today either on the pivot bars or on neighbouring trees.

lesser grey shrike

An immature masked shrike and an adult Daurian shrike (not photographed) were the first of each species seen this autumn.   

immature masked shrike

The eagles haven't arrived yet but an early marsh harrier has. Several of these will stay all winter.

marsh harrier

There was frenetic activity above the fields among the hirundines: mostly barn swallow and fewer sand martin. House martin were scarce and I still haven't seen a red rumped swallow this season.

barn swallow

On leaving the fields, I made a short stop in acacia area on the way back. However activity was low as the midday heat took its toll. Nevertheless, I managed to add blackstart and Eastern olivaceous warbler to the day list.


On reflection, this turned out to be a most satisfying morning overall despite the enforced change of birding plan.

List of 42 species seen today at Al Hayer
Black crowned night heron
Grey heron
Purple heron
Cattle egret

Squacco heron
Common moorhen
Little stint
Collared pratincole
Rock pigeon
Namaqua dove
Laughing dove
Collared dove

Barn swallow
Sand martin
Common cuckoo

European roller
White throated kingfisher
Little green bee-eater
European bee-eater
Blue cheeked bee-eater
Woodchat shrike
Masked shrike
Lesser grey shrike
Asian grey shrike (aucheri)
Daurian shrike
Crested lark
Graceful prinia

Great reed warbler
Eastern olivaceous warbler
Common whitethroat
Common myna
Black bush robin
Isabelline wheatear
House sparrow
Spanish sparrow
Streaked weaver
Indian silverbill
Yellow wagtail

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