Thursday 22 January 2015

A twitch at Al Beed farm

I drove a 325 Km round trip on Tuesday to Al Beed desert farm. I didn't go for larks though I saw black crowned sparrow lark, greater crested lark and hoopoe lark.

Instead I went to twitch a juvenile lanner falcon that had been reported there twice in the last month.

black-crowned sparrow lark

As luck would have it I saw it almost on arrival over the first field but from great distance.

I headed in the general direction of where I thought it had gone and found it up a tree in the the cluster of about 8 trees on the driveway to the main entrance.

This small cluster of trees has generated some wonderful birds over time.

first winter lanner falcon

Although I got good views of the bird in flight, it was so close and fast I failed to get good photos. When it landed trees three times, each time it was totally obscured.

The plumage fooled me at first because I was looking for the reported juvenile bird yet this bird had adult body markings but juvenile upper parts. In the Middle East and North Africa that means cinnamon brown upper parts. Furthermore its yellow leg and cere colour are the adult colours. Juveniles start out with bluish-grey legs and cere.

All is explained in "Field identification in large falcons in the Western Palearctic" by Hadoram Shirihai, Dick Forsman and David. A Christie for British Birds 1998.

 "Juveniles (meaning  of the large falcons) undergo a partial body moult during their first winter and a complete moult in the first spring/summer, although a few juvenile feathers, especially wing-coverts, are sometimes still retained".

As for the legs and eyes: "Juveniles are, in general, longer-tailed and narrower winged than adults, and in most cases have bluish to greyish (not clear yellow)
feet, cere and orbital ring; on some species, this colour may be retained through
to their first winter".

So a combination of adult body, leg and eye features but juvenile wing features is expected at this time of year.

Others before me have identified this particular bird as a lanner falcon and I totally concur.

The very long and narrow wings with blunt ends favours lanner falcon over saker which is the only alternative with the cinnamon-brown upper-parts.

blunt wing edge with juvenile markings

The head pattern (not easily seen on the top photo) and the cross-barring on parts of the body (just visible on the photo) are also consistent with the lanner falcon identification.

a pile of collared dove feathers

Lanner falcon favour eating birds while saker favours rodents. Three of the tall trees had plenty of piles of collared dove feathers under them.

collared dove at the farm

I can see why it has chosen this spot to winter with at least 40 collared dove and a small number of laughing dove sharing the small small space.

The same trees are housing three or more common chiffchaff at the moment too.

common kestrel

There are many locusts in the fodder fields which had the attention of at least three common kestrel

desert wheatear

Back by the cluster of trees a desert wheatear and an Asian desert warbler had paired up. Wherever the wheatear went the warbler followed.

Asian desert warbler

This pairing is known to take place with both African desert warbler and Asian desert warbler with desert wheatear.

Asian desert warbler takes off

Elsewhere there was a Asian grey shrike (aucheri) on top of a tractor.

Asian grey shrike (aucheri)

House sparrow are on the farm. Most of them were seen near the cow sheds but one was on one of the tall trees that the lanner falcon likes.

house sparrow

There is another cluster of trees and bushes in another part of the farm. I headed towards it before leaving. Unfortunately it was being tended by a gardener and was too disturbed at that moment for good birding. Nevertheless I passed a large field on the way there and as I did so the two white stork and one grey heron I had seen at the farm on previous visits flew over me.

white stork

Very close to the car, I passed a small group of tawny pipit. The first bird had a crown feathers raised which I have never seen in a pipit before. It gives it an almost lark-like feel.

tawny pipit with raised crown feathers

A more normal looking tawny pipit in the same group is shown below.

tawny pipit

In summary this was a twitch that paid off. It was a long way to go if there had been no dividend.

I am satisfied with the result. I had good views of the bird but it is a shame I couldn't get more pictures. In birding you can rarely have it all.

No comments:

Post a Comment