Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Sunut forest then Blue Nile, Khartoum

I visited Khartoum, Sudan for a work conference over last weekend. However I took opportunities to bird in all my available free time.

I arrived Thursday lunchtime and was birding by mid-afternoon in the closest hotspot to my hotel. This was Sunut forest. Sunut is a lowland area which floods from July to September but which retains enough moisture for trees to survive all year round.

The flooding comes from the White Nile. Indeed much of my birding was alongside the shore of Nile rather than in the forest.

I had no choice by virtue of when I had free time but to bird in the afternoon there. This is not ideal as I had to face the sun and its reflection in the river.

spur-winged lapwing

Looking out to the river, I saw several greater flamingo. On the shore the most ubiquitous bird by far was spur-winged lapwing. The density was highest I have ever seen.

many spur-winged lapwing and other birds

I was struggling with the light conditions but could make out that among the other waders were a few common ringed plover and little stint as well as curlew sandpiper. I also picked out two black-tailed godwit.

marsh sandpiper

The habitat looked good for marsh sandpiper and three were easily seen.

greater painted snipe

I recognised one sleeping bird as a greater painted snipe. I have now been privileged to see this species in three countries: Saudi Arabia, Oman and Sudan.

pied avocet

Out in the deeper water was five pied avocet and a similar number of black-winged stilt.

pied kingfisher

A pied kingfisher was fishing from the bank and one last look out to the river and I could make out some gull-billed tern.

Patas monkey

I then turned my attention to the woods and almost immediately walked into a small troop of Patas monkeys.

I also came across three warblers on the edge of the woods. Two were willow warbler but one was an Eastern Bonelli's warbler.

Indeed most birds were towards the edge including a pair of Nile valley sunbird and in another area, a masked shrike.

masked shrike

The first doves seen were a little confusing.They were African mourning dove but without the red orbital skin of the nominate sub species.

African mourning dove

It was not until close to dusk that I spotted my first common bulbul.

common bulbul

Even house sparrow can show well in fading light. There were plenty near the small agricultural plots at the north western corner of the nature reserve.

house sparrow

Yellow-billed kite are all around the city but not as numerous as in some other African cities such as Dakar, Senegal which I have visited. Nevertheless they were present over Sunut as elsewhere.

yellow-billed kite

I didn't get another change to bird again until late Saturday afternoon while on a short Blue Nile cruise with some work colleagues.

Blue Nile in Khartoum

Some the best birds were observed from the boat to the shore before the cruise had started.

Sudan golden sparrow 1

A small number of Sudan golden sparrow were foraging near the anchorage.

Sudan golden sparrow 2

In the same place a couple of pairs of crimson-rumped waxbill were darting around.
Crimson-rumped waxbill

Birding when the boat was moving proven tricky primarily because the deep water track required was a long way from either shore.

little egret

However a worn out little egret was spotted on the one shore up a tree.

Spur-winged lapwing with Egyptian plover

On the far shore I managed to spot two Egyptian plover running past a group of spur-winged lapwing. This species is sought after by visiting birders.

black-headed heron

The cruise was short but just before we docked I picked up a black-headed heron on another shore side tree.

Both these sessions were relatively short but on Sunday I managed much longer time in the filed on Tuti Island. I will blog about this next.

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