04/20/11

South Africa (ZA)   Exploration birding in Saudi Arabia - Day 2  -  Categories: Around the Region  -  @ 06:36:44 pm

Week 15 - 15 and 16 April 2011, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

We found clean accommodation in Zulfi when we arrived last night and after the noise and sleeping on a bed like a brick, we were ready to explore Zulfi by 5:30am. Zulfi town is situated in a valley below a small escarpment that could hold some interesting birds. Images by Mike Pope


However, we first tried to find a small desert lake, but alas it was dry. We did pick up 3 male Hen Harriers and this cracking pale phase Booted Eagle to start the day's birding

Booted Eagle

All Grey Shrikes were carefully checked, looking for the southern special - aucheri. Unfortunately all birds we did see were Steppe Grey Shrike

Steppe Grey Shrike

We found some good habitat that was protected by a fence and spent some time walking and exploring, with some anticipation of finding a rarity - which didnt materialise, but I enjoyed the habitat. We found good numbers of Common Redstart

Common Redstart

A couple of Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

A long snaking line of "marching ants" ala Photoshop moving from one location to the next

Marching Ants

Many Libyan Jirds (I assume the same species as we get in Kuwait) enjoying the abundant food

Libyan Jird

More Steppe Grey Shrike - the flight shot clearly shows T5 and T6 tail feathers as white, which is one of the key id features for Steppe

Step Grey Shrike

Step Grey Shrike

We headed back to Zulfi, where we explored both the top and bottom of the rocky escarpment. Looking from the ridge over the town, we saw House Martin and two Pale Crag Martins, quite high against the light - so please excuse the poor images

Pale Crag Martin

Pale Crag Martin

Observing from a different part of the ridge, produced the bird of the day - this 'brutish' Alpine Swift which came over quite low, circled twice on a thermal and then disappeared

Alpine Swift

Alpine Swift

Walking through the gardens on the edge of the escarpement finally produced my second target bird - Black Bush Robin (a rarity which I missed in Kuwait last year) - an impressive bird

Black Bush Robin

Black Bush Robin

here we found the only Masked Shrike of the trip

Masked Shrike

We came across a mixed flock of both Ortolan and these Cinereous Buntings with both male and female

Cinereous Bunting

Cinereous Bunting

Exploring the base of the escarpment, we found Olivaceous Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Graceful Prinia and Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat

and two very skittish Green Bee-eaters

Green Bee-eater

By this time it was time to drive to Artawiyah to explore some of the old abandoned farms. We didnt add many new birds to the day's list, but did see Grey Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree and Red-throated Pipit

Red-throated Pipit

and a single Wryneck

Wryneck

From here we headed back out into the desert to the Hume's Whitethroat location. Again we found Steppe Grey Shrike and it was this speficic bird the escaped our trap 3 consecutive times, as we tried to catch it to take measurements. Again this bird showing white T5 and T6 tail feathers

Steppe Grey Shrike

Steppe Grey Shrike

a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush added a splash of colour to the desert landscape

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

in this habitat, we found another 2 Desert Larks

Desert Lark

By this time, it was time to start the long drive back to Kuwait and we drove slowly across the desert until we intersected with the road to Hafr Al Batin. Here we flushed a Turtle Dove that was roosting under a small bush. All in all this was an interesting trip and great to see some new birds and habitat different to what we have in Kuwait, including some dune landscape

Turtle Dove


04/18/11

South Africa (ZA)   Exploration birding in Saudi Arabia - Day 1  -  Categories: Around the Region  -  @ 11:51:56 am

Week 15 - 15 and 16 April 2011, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

My family have returned to South Africa for Easter, so Abdulrahman Al-Sirhan and I planned an exploratory trip to the central northern region of Saudi Arabia around Artawiyah. I was suprised at how painless the border formalities were at Salmi in the SW of Kuwait - no need to even exit the car. Images by Mike Pope


Whilst waiting for Abdulrahman at the Kuwait Zoo, I found a female Black Redstart

Black Redstart

and a stunning lutea Yellow Wagtail backlit for a little creativity - ok, that was the best angle I could get on the bird

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Once border formalities were over we headed toward Hafr Al-Batin (named after Wadi Al Batin, I presume). About 50km before we turned off the tarmac and followed GPS to a tributary wadi where Pharoah Eagle Owl was found by Abdulrahman in January 2010. We finally found the wadi and quietly explored it on foot, flushing a single Pharoah Eagle Owl that we didnt see, until it flushed. Clearly, this quiet isolated wadi is its territory and we were well pleased in finding it again

Pharoah Eagle Owl

We couldnt relocate the owl, so explored the wadi system and amazingly found another two magnificent owls. Could this be a pair and the first bird seen, last seasons offspring?

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Just as we were driving out of the wadi a fawn coloured bird caught my attention as it flew across the wadi and landed - Desert Lark, my first target species of the trip. We had 4 birds and watched two of them square off against each other - mating courtship or territorial posing?

Desert Lark

Desert Lark

Desert Lark

Before reaching the main road, we heard the stunning call of Hoopoe Lark, it was easily located as it launched itself into the air after each medley in an impressive display flight, that was not easy to capture

Hoopoe Lark

Hoopoe Lark

Hoopoe Lark

At the side of the main road, we came across this unlikely group of Cattle Egrets and a single Squacco Heron, literally in the middle of the desert with no sign of water anywhere close

Cattle Egret and Squacco Heron

We passed through Hafr Al Batin and headed to Artawiyah across some interesting landscape including some red dune habitat. Before Artawiyah we detoured into the desert to explore some interesting habitat that Abdulrahman had seen using Google Earth. It was an interesting stop as the available cover provided shelter and food for many passing passerines. We saw two Icterine Warblers that werent co-operative for photographs and this Humes Whitethroat, that proved also to be elusive

Hume's Whitethroat

We also found Barred Warbler and Common Whitethroat, but by far the most abundant were the Willow Warblers on passage. At first their colouring confused us, as they had a pale pinkish hue with very little yellow on many of the birds. It was only whilst editing the images, did I discover that the pink hue was the dust from the shrubs that they were feeding on

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

02/18/08

South Africa (ZA)   Business Trip to Ras al Khaimah, UAE  -  Categories: Around the Region  -  @ 08:09:12 am

Week 7, 11 and 12 February 2008 - Al Hamra Resort - Ras al Khaimah, UAE

I was on business in RAK for a few days and managed to get in a stroll around the hotel gardens and golf course before breakfast one morning. Images by Mike Pope

I found this Graceful Prinia preening in the early morning sun

Graceful Prinia

A most obliging White cheeked Bulbul

White cheeked Bulbul

I was delighted to find 2 Striated Herons along the lagoon adjoining the golf course. The first I have seen since arriving in the Region. This one was a juvenile

Striated Heron

Striated Heron

A little further on, I came across an adult bird

Striated Heron

Striated Heron

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