Tuesday 6 January 2015

Al Beed farm in January

Once a month I have been travelling north into the desert to bird. My destinations vary but usually at least include Al Beed farm and Qatbeet motel gardens. These were my two stops last Sunday.

I arrived at the driveway to the farm just as dawn had broken and immediately found large flock of black-crowned sparrow lark.  I stopped and checked them out.

black-crowned sparrow lark

There were all ages and both genders present in a flock of about 30 birds. The bird above seems to be moulting into his first adult male plumage.

adult male black-crowned sparrow lark

The females and more particularly some older juveniles are sometimes mistaken for rarer larks especially Dunn's lark. The very young birds have breast streaking and are not confused but older ones often have pinkish bills (like Dunn's lark)  and have very weak breast markings. Their head streaks (again like Dunn's lark) can look surprisingly bold in certain light too.

young black crowned sparrow lark

The reason I checked the flock so thoroughly was to seek out any rarer larks.

close up of another young black crowned sparrow lark

The only find were three hoopoe lark near-by which cannot be mistaken for anything else.

hoopoe lark

On the farm itself in a pivot field there was a large mobile flock of greater short toed lark which were extremely flighty. I couldn't get close enough to them to see if there were any odd birds out. This was quite frustrating.

young desert wheatear

Nearer the farm outhouses the bird life was more varied. There were four desert wheatear around including this young bird.

second view of desert wheatear

I counted six Asian desert warbler in and around a row of bushes. They often follow desert wheatear around but I found no signs of this behaviour this time.

Asian desert warbler

A lanner falcon has been reported at the farm recently but I could only see two kestrel.

kestrel hovering

Trying to make sense of the picture above, the kestrel is facing away and is using is tail (in the foreground) like a rudder to keep in a hovering position.

white stork

Elsewhere on the farm two white stork were in almost the same position in the same field as I saw them four weeks ago.

two white stork

In the middle of this field next to the pivot bar were a few patches of water where the sprayers had placed too much water. These types of pool are often some of the best birding on any desert farm. 

wood sandpiper

These pools had a common snipe, two Temminck's stint and three wood sandpiper. In the passage season much more can often be seen at places like this.

After two hours at Al Beed farm I headed on north towards Qatbeet motel gardens. The birding here was excellent. I added three birds to my Oman list including a vagrant. This place has proved itself special time and time again for birders. The next blog will recount what I saw. 

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