Shall be away in the UK until mid January in the meantime a collection of images of Isabelline Wheatear taken between October and December this last autumn.
Still working around the Holiday had a few hours yesterday but many birds were just too distant for good photography but the most unusual sighting were of Red-rumped Swallows
Kentish Plover - nicely dressed ready for breeding
From other days out
Wryneck a bird that has been around some time but is rather camera shy
Hypocolius a regular around Jasra now
Thrush - a rather odd looking one the picture was taken through a chain link fence note the second one towards the back of the tree but am certain its a song thrush despite some received comments otherwise
Teal - a flock of 56 were seen at Tubli Bay sewage outlet
we have Ashura running into the National day holiday here - have to spend a fair amount of time working but in between I can dash out for a few hours birding each day.
Greater Sand Plovers
A Single Broad-billed Sandpiper among the Dunlin and Little Stints
Turnstone Ringed Plover and Greater Sand Plover
Not a lot around this morning other than mist which took a long time to clear
waterpipit - here in the wet grass - these winter mists provide a good supply of moisture for many species
Great Grey Shrike there is some debate as to which name we should use - Steppe, Saxual or Southern so take your pick
Greater Sand Plover - here in the first image a crassirostris looking very much like he's just come out of spec savers.
with a few Broad-billed Sandpipers
Back to the mundane after the excitement of the last few weeks - 140 plus Hypocolius observed today (see Hypocolius page for more info)
Desert Wheatear - competing with Isabelline for most commonly seen wheatear
Kingfisher - getting closer to a decent image at least I got him in the camera this time
What a day today - two Sociable Plovers with one being trapped and ringed at Hamalah experimental Farm plus Short-eared Owl the Reed Buntings and more Red Avadavats seen besides the usual stuff.
Sociable Plover. For more information on the Birdlife International Project go to http://www.amazing-journey.org/
more pictures http://www.hawar-islands.com/blog/gen_stub.php of ringed bird
Water Pipit numbers are beginning to build
Stonechat lots of both male and female birds are easily found
Skylark flocks of hundred populate most agricultural areas
Song Thrush are taking up their winter quaters
Marsh Harrier taking a shower in the irrigation sprinklers
Greenshank most seen in the ditches these days
Broad-billed Sandpiper not as common as Dunlin and Little stint but still numerous on the shore
A birding dilemma - just how much birding can you do in six days - well today proved that it still is not enough as we managed to find a real rarity - a Reed Bunting our 5th record with the last 21 year ago in November 1989.
First thing this morning which started bright and misty I joined Brendan who has currently two young Ladies in tow as trainee ringers at Hamalah Experimental Farm. It proved a good option with not only the Reed Bunting, which was one of three seen, 11 species in twenty birds caught including a Red Avadavat and finishing with a Quail. Worst bird of the morning was the Grey Shrike which managed to sample a few bits of my fingers while I extracted him from the nets, he seemed to like the taste as he finally managed to draw blood.
Images in no particular order from the last few days but I will start with the Bunting.
Wheatear one still unconfirmed its either Black-eared or Pied
Mourning Wheatear never in the right place for the sun
Black-winged Stilt a young bird
It was a while since I was at the race course lake so I decided to pop down there this afternoon. Below are two poor shots of a yellow-billed Stork that was in the desert on the far side of the lake. If its still there tomorrow we might have a better chance to photograph it. Howard recons its probably an escape from Al Areen wildlife park but the bird here is unringed.
The bird was very shy and flushed when I got to within 300 meters
The bird landed in the desert behind the lake.
The wind kept up throughout the weekend and after the weeks rains many areas were a bit sticky for driving - avoided the shore this week concentrating on ditches and fields then on Saturday chasing a few birds with the nets.
Little Bittern from Adhari ditches in the early morning light
Redstart a disappointing view as it disappeared
Mourning Wheatear - carrying a ring the origin of this will be resolved this winter
Coot - only a record shot was possible
Took visiting birder Keith Rainford out today - despite the windy conditions we did manage to get a good number of lifers for him, well over twenty I think but he is still counting. I did fail to find a few of our more common species like Desert lark but there is always next time however for those we did get he had multiple and very close views of most.
Steppe Grey Shrike a young bird
Lovely but distant adult
Ruff - female Reeve
Another but a difficult bird to assign to species
The temperature was hotter than the birds this weekend - in fact is was disappointingly quiet. However I covered a lot of ground and got a reasonable feel for what was about. For birds seen this October see here
From Hamalah this weekend -
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater - no European B/E's seen this weekend
Isabelline Wheatear looking very much like something else
White Wagtail - looking like a waitress dressed with a bib
Ringed Wader - a question mark on this one
From the shore and coastal areas
Caspian Tern some of the hundreds that had gathered on the high tide on the reclaimed land at the north end of Tubli
Dunlin with a Broad-billed Sandpiper on the left
Just a few at the high tide roost at Tubli
Keeping apart from the hords mixed flocks of Sand Plovers were scattered across the area
A Kentish Plover stands out in the masses -
Over at Hidd on the rising tide
Western Reef Heron
A solitary Grey Heron stands guard over the roosting Lesser Crested Terns
Greater Sand Plover
a Curlew keeps company with a Bar-tailed Godwit
Curlews stand out in small flocks
Curlew any closer in soon give you a departing view
Numerous Isabelline Wheatears occupy the sea walls
Purple Heron one of 3 seen today
I will stick to the birds - started yesterday out at Busaiteen expecting to find only waders but the wheatears just keep coming, unexpectedly their number included a Red-Tailed Oenanthe chrysopygia. Normally only encountered while wintering in the interior they are hard to photograph. This one turned out to be a real poser. Abdullah turned up later with his ringing kit so it left wearing a leg iron.
I have never seen so many wheatears mostly Pied and Isabelline on a single day before - the day count was over 50 - wheatears were everywhere.
This one is difficult - Pied or Black-eared for myself I think its Pied
Quite a few Isabelline shrikes around as well
Turkestan Shrike L (i) phoenicuroides
these not identified to species
Steppe Grey Shrike - always distant today
Started my day over at Busaiteen but only a few wheatears today so I had a crawl along the shore - looking for anything close to hand.
Grey Plover - still plenty of variety in terms of molt
Gull-billed Tern - numbers have increased dramatically
Greater Sand Plover
Caspian Tern - lots of returning family groups unlike our resident birds that are about now to breed
In the gardens around Hamalah and Buri things were really quite but I did come across a few birds
Rufous Bush Robin
Harrier -a rather distant bird can't decide species either Pallid or Montague's - if you have any idea drop me an email on howardk at hawar-islands.com
A garden Skink
After a longer than normal summer break I managed to get out last weekend but a poor internet connection at home here stopped me putting my images until now.
Found south of Al Jazair beach
I found Short-toed Larks everywhere I went
as was also the case for Isabelline Wheatear
and Spotted Flycatchers
Whereas I only found Pied Wheatears at Busaiteen along the sea wall along with dozens of Isabelline, a few Black-Eared, Northern and Desert Wheatears.
same bird as above
where along the shore thousands of skitty waders could be found
Greater Sand Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Terek Sandpiper and Lesser Sand Plover
Quite a few Socotra Cormorants were found on the shore line many allowing a close approach
At Hamalah Experimental farm a good number of Steppe Grey Shrikes were seen
Graceful Warbler everywhere as usual
Swallow -- one day I will get a classic shot in the meantime I keep trying
First Published Phoenix 2004
Some notes on the communal behaviour of Socotra Cormorant, Phalacrocorax nigrogularis
Outside of the breeding season
By Howard King
Socotra cormorants Phalacrocorax nigrogularis are the conservation flagship species for the thirty or more Bahraini islands of the Hawar archipelago * (QB28) that lie close to the Qatar peninsula. Endemic to the Arabian Gulf and Arabian Sea the status and biology of the Socotra cormorant still requires much investigation. In the following notes details are given of observations of communal behaviour outside of the breeding season. Once the cormorants move into the breeding colony in late September the daily routine changes dramatically, the nature of that behaviour will be the subject of further reports.
Despite full species protection in Bahrain, numbers at the largest documented breeding site, on the island of Suwad al Janubiyah (Suwad) in Hawar, show evidence of a decline in the long term. The concern at this decline is compounded by the fact that over the past decade many breeding sites around the gulf have been lost as sites have been encroached upon by development or subjected to prolonged human disturbance. Also as a ground breeding species this cormorant is known to be vulnerable to natural disasters, such as that recorded at Suwad in late November 1997 when heavy rain flooded the entire colony, filling nests with water, drowning incubated eggs and causing tens of thousands of developing chicks to die from hypothermia. In the last breeding year (2002/2003), in early April an isolated thunderstorm accompanied by strong winds (strong enough to remove the roof a building on the main island of Hawar) resulted in the sudden termination of the breeding season on Suwad with the death of thousands of chicks. The carcasses of dead chicks were found to cover an area of 19,750 M' with an average density of 43 per 100 M2 . This particular disaster is thought to have been minor in comparison to what happened in 1997.
Outside of the breeding season (the breeding season is October to April) the birds that constitute the Suwad breeding colony disperse around the Gulf of Salwa, establishing large roosts at isolated locations. On the exposed western shores of offshore islands * (e.g. Umm Nassan, QA29) that lie between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, a days flight to the north west of Hawar, over fifty thousand birds congregate daily to form one of the largest roosts known. The largest congregations occur at these locations throughout July and August. Roosts are well defined and occupy the smallest possible ground footprint, generally with a forward edge on the shore. The birds press tightly together (shoulder to shoulder) even though there is plenty of space available. Just why the birds form such dense roosts is not yet understood; roosts sites monitored all provide exposure to seasonal winds and cooling breezes but the birds are so tightly packed that the benefits of any breeze would seem to be negated for the majority. One explanation could be that such dense congregations provide the maximum shade area for the most feet, important when summer ground or surface temperatures are known to exceed 60 'C. Estimates of the numbers of individual birds that constitute a particular roost were difficult to ascertain but video evidence taken during August 2003 indicates that at the largest roost monitored, on the island of Umm Nassan, exceeded 30,000 birds. A fact that is reflective of the highly sociable nature of the species, evident in many aspects of the daily and seasonal life cycle. Other than a small numbers of birds observed throughout the day moving in and out of roosting sites, the main feature of summer roosting behaviour were the prolonged periods of almost total inactivity. Roosts were observed to remain in situ regularly from dawn until the middle of the afternoon, when the days fishing foray would start. Almost without exception other activities when initiated were undertaken collectively by the entire roosting flock, irrespective of its size. Other than the afternoon fishing forays the most frequently observed activity involved mass fly outs into the adjacent shallow bays close offshore, where the entire flock would bathe and subsequently raft. Rafting behaviour was particularly evident during periods of hot calm and humid weather but would also occur if a roost was disturbed. Once formed out at sea a raft, which also has the smallest possible footprint and is best described as a floating roost, could remain intact for many hours with the birds simply drifting or floating along the edge of tidal steams or channel currents.
On several occasions afternoon fishing forays were initiated by the whole flock from the rafted up location. Otherwise daily afternoon fishing forays at the roost were announced around 15.00 hrs by an almost predictable surge of activity. Often initiated by birds at the back and acting as if on command, large groups were observed to fly out and drop into the sea in front of the mass of birds on the shore to initiate their individual bathing routine. Almost instantly, as if this were a trigger, the birds on the shore would swim out rather than fly the short distance to bathe, joining the constantly growing mass of bathing birds. The birds instinctively concentrate themselves during this manoeuvre into a small well-defined section of the bay. Caught in strong currents close inshore, the bathing birds quickly drift out into deeper water, with the space left closer to the shore instantly occupied by joining birds. When the rate of departure from the roost exceeded the available space close inshore, birds on the wing would over fly any on the water and drop down at the leading edge, out in the bay, creating a processional line of activity both in the air and on the sea. This movement of birds some flying, some swimming, some bathing would continue until the whole roost were offshore, a mass of wing flapping and splashing water that eventually would form up into a long loose raft, drifting slowly seaward on the current, the prelude to the most spectacular mass activity of all, takeoff for the days fishing foray.
Socotra cormorants bathe at the earliest opportunity each time they leave the land, a routine that never varies. By snorkelling amongst the bathing birds it was possible to view both individual and the massed bathing routines at close quarters viewing underwater, surface and aerial activity. The bathing routine for individual birds varies only slightly and in general is started almost immediately a bird settles on the water. Initiated as if looking for fish by the ducking of the head on an extended neck under the water, the head and neck are jerked downwards in stabbing motion and the feet used to scratch at the feathers of the breast or the neck to assist with the removal of dirt or parasites. Whilst in the head down position the tail is raised and the feet used to vigorously flick water up into the ventral area, occasionally the feet were also used to propel or torpedo the bird along the surface at considerable speed to force water up over the back. Birds were only very occasionally seen to actually swim underwater as a prelude to the bathing routine. After attending to the head, the bird would rise and with a quick flap of its wings, reassume a sitting position on the water, then with wings extended in a cupped or half cock position to the side, beat them repeatedly against the surface of the water, holding the wings at an angle that would ensure that wing tips are driven vertically down into the water. The wings are then drawn into the body and used to move or scoop more water up and over the back with semi folded wings used to work the water into the back feathers. The processes of wing beating and water scooping over the back or occasionally the entire routine was repeated several times. The bird would then rise up as with wings outstretched and flap them vigorously, holding itself erect with just the tail and feet in the water before finally holding the wings out to dry from a slightly raised sitting position on the water. Preening of individual feathers continues after bathing from the swimming position for some considerable time. When undertaken en mass, bathing routines are spectacular and dramatic, birds are constantly dropping down into or taking off while others bathe creating a mass of apparently confused movements. Such bathing activity could easily be confused with fishing activity when undertaken by an entire roost of tens of thousands of birds as they roll over each other in a continuous leap frog motion.
Food finding movements
The mass departure of Socotra cormorants from a raft or a roost is totally unlike the choreographed ballet of the more commonly observed flight formations. These are the continuous chains or long strings and "V" shaped formations that are often observed along distant horizons or from shorelines. These strings, spectacular in their own right (as such a passage can be continuous for many hours), generally represent the processional return of tens of thousands of birds to roosting or breeding sites after fishing, or a localised movement from one area to another. Mass fishing departures, in contrast, involves the almost simultaneous takeoff and flight in a single direction of an entire flock; passage past an observer will be completed in minutes rather than hours even for the largest of congregations. The flock retains an identity; it takes the form of a dense black sheet of birds flying at wave height barely a metre or so above the water. Flying within an almost definable rectangular area, no single bird leads, the flock moves en masse; on a broad front several hundred metres across, whist the remainder follow as a unit in close pursuit behind.
Flying along their selected route with thousands of eyes searching along the front line of the moving flock, when fish are encountered forward movement would come to an abrupt halt as the birds alighted onto the sea all together to opportunistically dive for fish. Birds always settle onto the sea before diving below to fish. If the shoal of fish encountered is sizeable a fishing frenzy would develop as those coming up from behind would also alight en masse on the sea in the same place. Birds were often seen to return to the surface with fish in their beaks and instantly fly off to settle away from the fishing area before attempting to swallow their catch. Those that attempted this in the fishing area risked being robbed of their catch by others. It is not known if these cormorants can swallow fish on the move either above or below the water. In a very short time a fishing frenzy takes shape with birds dropping down from what soon becomes a circling mass above the hot spot, large numbers of birds, some barely visible with heads down, cover the surface of the sea as others that have completed a dive continuously rise from the fishing area to fly off, either to circle again or find a haven to swallow their catch. Many appear to be just sitting on the sea as if taking a rest as the back markers catch up and overtake the leading edge. From a distance, only the birds dropping down or those taking off are visible in what appears to be a continuous motion, which could be mistaken, given the surface commotion during such frenzies, for birds plunge diving straight into the sea.
The longest feeding frenzy observed (recorded on video) lasted over thirty minutes and involved around 5000 birds however most events were of much shorter duration. Fishing frenzies were occasionally observed to occur along the fringes of the moving mass but seldom behind the leading edge of birds. Once the leading birds were otherwise engaged in feeding, the moving sheet of birds coming up from behind would over fly the area, generally instinctively knowing whether it was worth stopping to fish or continue as a new front. Such a leap frog motion characterises most fishing forays and provides in due course. a consequence of the long flight path, an opportunity for most birds to be at the front. Occasionally more than one feeding area would develop resulting in the flock being longitudinally stretched out along the flight path, but such was the manner of feeding forays that in time the entire flock would eventually reform into a single sheet of birds again and again, to move across the more open and deeper areas of sea grass.
Return flights to roost
Eventually appetites are satisfied and the mass fishing effort breaks down and skeins of birds break off from fishing to return to their point of departure. It is on the return flight that the cormorants create the long processional low flying lines of the familiar continuous strings or "V" shaped flight formations, with seemingly choreographed movements and 'Mexican waves'. Mass fishing forays were followed on several occasions throughout the summer of 2003, to the point when flocks begin to return. (Provided the fishing areas remained inside Bahrain waters). Flocks would often cover distances in excess of 40 or 50 kilometres on the outward leg daily. Such long distance fishing forays were observed to be the norm rather than the exception. Since fishing flocks move at a slower speed than birds returning to roost areas it was possible to follow them on the outward leg using a boat with a top speed of 28 knots. However it was not possible to keep up with the returning skeins of birds.
The outward leg was seldom a straight line and on numerous occasions contained right angle turns and even back tracks. For the return, cormorants always took the shortest possible route home. But on such flights transits overland are avoided or kept to an absolute minimum, thus flights often were via key turning points around islands or land obstructions.
On or about 14 August 2003 the large roosts on western islands of Bahrain start to dissolve with the flocks making a leisurely flight southwards to reform as a large roost on Rubud al Gharbiyah or Rubud Ash Sharqiyah (the Rubuds) the most northerly islands of the Hawar archipelago. This large seasonal movement follows the western coast of Bahrain south around Ras Al Bar, the southern tip of the main island of Bahrain, before crossing the 22 kms of open sea to Hawar. The roost on the Rubuds remained in place until around 23 September 2003 when the birds occupied the breeding grounds on Suwad. The first eggs at the breeding colony can be expected seven to ten days from that time.
Pre-breeding fishing Forays
Fishing forays from the Rubuds are massive affairs involving numbers thought to be in excess of 50,000 birds. Only small rafts amongst the islands were encountered during this time, the birds remain largely inactive during the day until around 13.30 hrs when, in a similar fashion to that observed at Umm Nassan, the entire roost would leave together to first bathe then move as a compact flock out to sea to fish. The birds from this pre-breeding location seem to have a circular route for their daily fishing activities, which results in regular fishing forays inside the territorial waters of Qatar. The chosen fishing direction for the day however is announced within the roost by an initial wholesale movement of birds to either the eastern or western corner of the islands, points of departure coincident with access to deeper water. The roost site lacks a good adjacent bathing area as a large sand bank less than half a metre in depth at high tide, extends nearly 2 km offshore directly to the north, however the bank ensures little or no human (fishermen) disturbance at this time.
Despite the preference of the gathered flock to fish communally small fishing parties of generally less than fifty birds were regularly encountered particularly late afternoon along the flyway home to roost. Unlike that employed by the massed flock during fishing forays the behaviour and technique of these small fishing groups was found to he quite different. These parties congregate as in a miniature raft sitting tightly packed on the water, one or more birds would be seen looking under the water Oust their backs visible) so that once fish were spotted, with a raise of a head and an arch of the back one would disappear from view in a dive. Alert to the slightest movement of any in the party almost simultaneously the balance of the fishing party would dive, disappearing as if this were a rehearsed synchronous motion. Surprisingly the party would surface in a similar manner retaining its tight formation. Such fishing parties however would not allow a close approach by snorkelling thus the actual fishing technique employed underwater or the nature of the schooling fish remains unknown.
Fish species observed in the diet
Divers record that Socotra cormorants can dive straight down to depths in excess of 18 metres, they are also regularly found drowned in fishing traps at varying depths up to 20 metres. Observations of identifiable fish taken indicate that the following species are included, (some only as fingerlings) in the diet.
- Atherinomorus lacunosus Silverside
- Atule mate Yellowtail Scad
- Selar crumenophthalmus Bigeye Scad
- Sardinella albella White Sardine
- Sardinella gibbossa Goldstripe Sardine
- Hemiramphus far Spotted Halfbeak
- Siganus javus Streaked Rabbit Fish
I am on leave in the UK FOR A FEW MORE WEEKS - If I get any pictures from here I will put them up on our page world birds
First thing this morning I returned to Askar reeds (26° 4'33.21"N 50°37'11.07"E) to get a better image of the Avocet - well worth it too the bird was still there and feeding out in the open.
I also managed to find a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron indicating that they also breed here.
and a Clamorous Reed Warbler
I then went to Hamalah and the experimental farm (26° 8'26.80"N 50°28'25.82"E)- not a lot here as yet but I did manage to find five or six Isabelline Wheatears
I then went over to Buri to check out the vegetable gardens in amongst the palms (26° 9'48.58"N 50°29'38.40"E) again a few more Isabelline Wheatears on the open fields but in the shade of the trees it was very quite except for a few of our breeding species
last full weekend before a spot of leave in the UK - but the weather has to be endured its "horrible" - hot and humid. First thing this morning was a trip around the shore line of Maharraq and Hidd then onto some gardens in Buri then back to Asker after a phone call from Brendan telling me he had found an Avocet - our first since September 1998.
Socotra Cormorant - these are 1st year birds - but quite a few large flocks around - won't be long now before they all disappear off to the breeding grounds on Hawar.
Whimbrel currently more numerous than the Curlews
A lot more Lesser Sand Plovers around this week as well
Curlew Sandpiper - food fight
Greater Sand Plover
From the Refinery green patch - now complete with water
Green Sand Piper
and finally the rather distant Avocet from Askar
The last of the Pallid Swifts have disappeared for the summer from outside the office window this week but Rollers Blue Cheeked Bee-eaters Sand Martins and even a yellow Wagtail have already been seen by Brendan. For my part I have added Cream Coloured Courser and a Isabelline Wheatear to the early returns. On the Shore Curlew Sandpiper and Little stint are now the most numerous wader but a few Terek Sandpipers Dunlin have been also seen along with an increase in numbers of Red and Greenshank, Whimbrel, Curlews and Godwits.
Cream Coloured Courser
Greater Sand Plover - they just luv the camera
It was my intention to concentrate on land birds today in both the gardens and fresh water margins. But having visited Adhari ditches,the chicken farm and a few green spots in between I ended up at Dumistan or Lawzi Lake with not many species recorded. The lake, our biggest body of brackish water and all that remains of an old long abandoned sandpit, was full of Terns; White-cheeked and Little, Reef Herons and Black-winged Stilts, a few Kentish Plovers, Little Egrets, a solitary Grey Heron and Little Grebes completed the picture. I was surprised as sat viewing the antics of the terns to see a pair of Slender-billed Gulls appear from the reed margins on the far side. Slender-billed are not that numerous in the summer unlike in winters when tens of thousands can be found. What was surprising about this pair were that one was obviously a juvenile whist the other an adult and the attentive behavior of the adult was suggestive of parent and offspring. Interesting to say the least as we do not have any accepted records for this species breeding here.
Dumistan Lawzi Lake
Slender-billed Gull the pair in question
breeding Collared Dove
Squacco Heron another species thought now to be breeding here
Kentish Plover chick
From the Chicken Farm
after our ringing trip to Jarim last weekend it was nice to get back to the Maharraq shore - the most numerous species seen were the Greater Sand Plovers, out numbering the Kentish Plover for once. Both species seem to have multiplied in numbers dramatically these last few weeks. Terns were in short supply with the breeding season still not yet complete but plenty of Reef Herons around and the odd other wader the numbers of species on the shore is beginning to build.
Greater Sand Plover
Lesser Crested Tern
Western Reef Heron
When I left home at 5-30 this morning it was a pleasant 30c when I returned home at 10 it was starting to push past 40c. I spent this morning working the shoreline around Busaiteen and Hidd with the World Cup this afternoon I didn't want to wander too far. The shore in summer never holds many birds but the few you find can be easier to approach than the large flocks that will start to congregate in a month or two.
Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Kentish Plover Chick - I watched each pair I found with a chick to check brood numbers - for each of the 8 pairs I found this morning I only noted a single chick - at this time of the year these are likely to be a second brood unlike the first when 2 to 3 chicks are the norm
Socotra Cormorant one of many but the only one close to the shore here on a fish trap
Two birds to report from Friday
1. Garganey female/juvenile Buhair north flew off and seen again in Buhair south
2. Night heron Juvenile Buhair north flew off and seen again in Buhair south
Its getting harder to find birds other than sparrows and doves with the migration over - but my main goal was to try and photograph some Clamourous Reed Warbler Brendan thought were breeding at a site - a coastal swamp south of Alba at Askar. I saw some large distant warblers but every time I tried to get closer up went the locally breeding Black-winged Stilts, their alarm calls are enough to waken the dead. Needless to say I failed in this quest.
I tried visiting the Diplomatic Wadi at the backside of Riffa Airbase hoping for better luck there in the reeds but was surprised to find a Sand Martin hawking insects in the area. What was surprising was that it keep disappearing into the cliff face behind the tallest stand of reeds. I telephoned Brendan and he said he had seen two there the week before. I have seen adult Sand Martins at Tubli in the past feeding juveniles in early August. So breeding for this species here is a distinct possibility.
Sand Martin a rather distant image of the bird -
I checked the shore line at Tubli Bay on the way home, at the sewage outfall the Western Reef Herons out number all other birds. Fledging young and juveniles are everywhere, mixed most probably with a few Little Egrets. What was surprising though was the number of Night Herons flying in and out of the mangroves I assume therefore that their breeding season is not quite as advanced as the others heron species.
In view two Western Reef Herons, one dark and one light and a Black-crowned Night Heron passing through the shot
Western Reef Herons
Black-crowned Night Heron at the net site
Curlew Sandpiper - a late developer that has not gone anywhere
Same bird with a Kentish plover
Slender-billed Gull - one of many seen all non-breeders and in full wing moult
Whimbrel two over summering non-breeding individuals
most migrants have past - on the shore just a few scattered waders left Lesser Sand and Grey plovers, the odd Whimbrel and Green Shank. Lesser Crested Terns are still congregating prior to breeding while white Cheeked and Saunders's are well started. Most Little Terns seem to have already finished. In the Gardens much the same most birds well into finishing their breeding. While watching Terrapins at Adhari this Moorhen chick strode through the frame - image is uncropped. Otherwise Crested Larks and the endless string of Kentish complete with most probably second brood chicks are everywhere.
One of five seen more pics under wildlife
Not so much around these days and what is is hard to get close to. I spent some time watching Little Tern plunge drive the main ditch at Adhari and anything else that came within lens distance. Before moving over to Hidd by the desalination plant to check for any waders.
The interesting thing about Little Terns is that they clear the diving spot before the water column has returned thus fly away almost perfectly dry.
Stop Press Brendan rang to say had seen thanks to Abdulla 5 Cream Coloured Coursers at Busaiteen
Saunders's Tern - from Hidd for comparison
Little Egret are a common species around the ditches
Moorhen one of many
Squacco Heron he saw me just as I was about to click
Over at Hidd other than the Saunders's
Yellow Wagtail - a late migrant
Plenty of Western Reef Herons - this one showing the multi-coloured tones often seen in 1st summer birds.
rather distant Lesser Sandplover still quite a few around
Bar-tailed Godwit - non breeding birds
You would have never have guessed that Saturday afternoon would end the way it did. A mini hurricane sprang up reducing visibility to meters in a sand storm, trees were brought down along with many advertising hoardings and numerous buildings suffered structural damage. But the weekend had been good for the large number of passing warblers mostly Willow, Shrikes and Kestrels. The shore line was quiet but tern numbers are building and amongst the remaining waders Little Stint and Curlew Sandpipers remain the dominant species seen.
Our resident warbler the Prinia or Graceful Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher - one of five seen
Whinchat two of seven seen
Swallow a tail-ender of the large numbers that have past through found basking in the bright sun
Lesser Kestrel - with out a 4x4 I couldn't unlike AJ get close to these - At one time there were seven at The chicken farm on Saturday.
what I think might be a Marsh Warbler - white primary tips squarer darker tail and pale lower mandible of bill suggest this species over very similar Reed. If you think otherwise let me know
Lesser Grey Shrike just one of a dozen or so seen during the weekend - never alas the right side of the sun - note the size of the black mask across the face
Red-backed Shrike probably the most numerous passing at the moment
As yet an unidentified Shrike could be either Isabelline or Red backed
Willow Warbler some of the hundreds seen this weekend
Also seen this weekend were Meneteries's Barred, Reed, Upchers Olivaceous and Sedge Warblers.
From the shore the remnants of the wader flocks are getting harder to find. Here two Terek Sandpipers, a Red Shank, Green Shank, and Lesser Sandplover
Western Reef Heron their breeding season is now in full swing
Spent time wandering farms and vegetated corners - quiet with not to many birds moving but caught a few late passage migrants as well as a few locals -
1cy Red-backed Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike one of 6 seen
Grey-headed Yellow Wagtail- thunbergi
Grey Francolin and family
Rufous Bush Robin
Kentish Plover Chick
Finally managed to get some birding in - but not the best of weather for photography dull, windy, overcast and spotting with rain. Murphy's law I think they call it.
I started Friday morning driving around Muharaq shore line including Amwaj Islands checking for terns and to see what waders were left. Disappointing in terms of birds seen. After this I checked Tubli bay and ended up at Adhari ditches.
Squacco Heron in pre-breeding colours
Little Egret were seen in larger than usual numbers in the ditches
White-cheeked Terns - fishing in the main ditch
Lesser Crested Tern
Grey Plover - coming into summer plumage
Turnstone - numerous along the tide lines
Western Reef Heron- this one showing red hues in its' bare parts
Either currently nesting or about to they are a common feature on the shore
I only managed some distant record shots of the few waders around
Will be away outside Bahrain from Sunday 6th - and unfortunately preparations for the trip have prevented me doing any field visits these last few weeks
Stuck in the UK now due to the Volcanic ash back Saturday 23rd April
by Su & Luke Delve
Sunday was a Holiday here but the light was affected by a sandy haze that has come to define much of the weather these days. Had only a few hours out at the Chicken Farm at Hamalah and the gardens at Buri. The number of migrant species is on the increase now with a good number of further firsts of the season for me to mix in with our wintering and resident species.
Yellow Wagtail - Feldegg
Shoveler the only duck seen this weekend at the pond
Corn Bunting - many males are singing there heads off
Isabelline Wheatear still the most numerous wheatear around
Marsh Harrier - still here and this time come in for the attack
Mixed flocks of Spanish and House Sparrows out number most other birds.
Abdulla was in Ali farm this morning early and saw the spotted cuckoo again. He rushed home for his camera and got the stock photo. I went down later but couldn't track it down. So far I've seen it for 5 seconds and Adbulla has watched it for almost an hour over two occasions. The bird has been seen for a week today. Lets hope it stays a little longer.
dirty and dusty this morning but the number of new species around has improved dramatically - this morning I went south into the drier desert spaces that make up much of the island - not that there is much of it left this being silly season - camping time.
Desert Lark - one of a pair carrying off food?
Pied Wheatear - two of the dozen or so seen today
Red-tailed or Kurdish Wheatear
Blue Rock Thrush one of three seen
The bringer of spring a Hoopoe
Only had time for a quick visit to Maharraq and Buri and not a lot around but the big return can not be far away...
heavy fog made the morning start much later than normal - no sign of the Eagle Brendan had seen on Thursday or the Gallinule in fact quite quite both weather-wise and with the birds.
Stonechat - an interesting looking bird
Yet another Bluethroat
Swallow in silhouette
Just as I took the shot the Moorhen zapped through the picture
I spent this morning checking the ditches around Adhari again before moving out to the reclaimed land at the top end of Tubli Bay
Adhari was good but I missed the Kingfishers yet again but at least I did get my camera leveled onto one bird.
But best of the day were the Little Bitterns I found two pairs here are images of one from each.
Western Reef Heron - having a bad hair day
Purple Heron - still around
Grey Heron and Little Egret
Great Black-headed Gull - 5 seen at the sewage outfall
At the tidal roost area on the reclaimed land
Pacific Golden Plover - one of 25 plus
Broad-billed Sandpiper - a good number were mixed in with the other waders
Waders - Turnstone, Broad-billed and Curlew Sandpiper, Lesser Sand Plover and Dunlin
a Ringed Plover with Dunlin and Stints
Dunlin and Curlew Sandpipers
A Greater Sand Plover strolls past the flocks of roosting waders
Lesser Sand Plover with a single Broad-billed Sandpiper
Oyster Catcher - 14 seen
I spent a lot of time last Saturday 23rd January -waiting out a new species Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio I had spotted in the effluent outfall behind Delmen Poultry. Having watched the bird for a few good mins by the time I decided to photograph it, it had disappeared. Despite long stake outs I still have not got a picture of this elusive bird. AJ told me he thought he saw it the week before but didn't bother with it!! but it remains my observation tough luck boyo..
I spent some considerable time yesterday Friday 29th hoping to see it again but no luck as yet. But did take a few photos around the lovely smelly pool.
Marsh Harrier - still around
Spent some time at Buri where AJ found these Bank Mynah's - a recent escape I would think
the rest of the time was spent chasing shadows with only a few photos of our regulars
a numerous wintering species
A ringed male Stonechat - probably one of Brendan's from last year --
Pied Wheatear - first of the seaason
Now in bloom - Desert Hyacinth
Had a long day out - started by checking the shores of Maharraq and Hidd before moving on to Tubli Bay then the Diplomatic Wadi the desert areas around the Jebel Dakhan before moving on the Hamalah to finish at Jasrah. Saw a lot more that I could photograph but still relatively quiet. The 5 Spoonbills are still around in Tubli bay and at the Chicken Farm several large Reed Warblers are still present.
Lots of Wheatears around and numbers increasing from those that wintered
Marsh Harrier - our distinctive wintering Harrier and still around
Some from the shore in the early morning light
Ugly Greater Cormorants not as pretty as our resident Socotra
A rock Dove from the Jebel
From my kitchen window just before I left a cold and frosty Wales
Got back late last night after a harrowing journey spread over two days - was woken this morning by a call from Bahrain Resident Daniel Zanotti about a Kestrel stuck in a tree at Adhari - one that had been entangled in a trappers lair and then complete with tap had become entangled in a tree. With the help of a young Bahraini Ahmed Al Manari and his Indian Gardener we managed to free the bird and release it successfully uninjured back to the wild.
After this managed a quick scan of the area which revealed one Pied Kingfisher on the adjacent motorway lights - a surprise since according to Daniel the bird had also been present before Christmas. With the tree gone from the ditch it stayed too far away to get any decent shots. I could only find one of the European Kingfishers also seen before Christmas. A few calling Warblers, plus a few Bluethroats and a single thrush were seen as well as the usual waders and Egrets in the ditches. Find of the day was however this Purple Heron
The Kestrel - photos by Daniel Zanotti
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