Today felt cold, was hazy and dank yet temperature were still over 18c. However there was not that much around either and that which was played hard to get. It was just as well I had taken some pics in the week otherwise might not had enough pics to make the entry worthwhile. Having spent Christmas and New year in the UK tied to house and home, the urge to get out was well - some might say obsessive.
Coot a winter visitor that can be hard to find
Curlew these look so different to those found on the shore and are some of the 14 now on the fields at Hamalah
Egrets at the mangrove Cattle and Little Egret share a roost with...
Black-crowned Night Heron
Females Stonechat are always difficult to separate into species
Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
December is always a busy month at work so any birding opportunities are few however I did manage a few trips out. Gratefully now back in the UK for Christmas with time to spare to put up the few pics I took. PICS in no particular order but to start what I think is my best photo of the month
Kestrel two seen one quite tame
Really was too late for these chaps as a Marsh with the Pallid Harrier depart
Paired Hoopoe - breeding season can't be far away
Just them Northern/Siberian Gulls again so many any gull freaks heaven
Curlew - eight now at Hamalah
Since I had some business to attend to, down south on Thursday I was able to bird my journey back into town. This proved to be a more civilized way to beat the late afternoon traffic jams particularly those caused by the huge road improvements current along a large section of the eastern arterial route south, my way home. It was a good way to start the weekend.
Huge numbers of Gulls of all species can currently be found along the entire eastern shore from Jaw to Askar along with the usual cast of waders. There were no surprises here - being just offshore from our dump this is standard fare for this time of the year. Was surprised however to find a few Great Black-headed gulls mixed in but they were too distant to even point the camera at, an opportunity will present itself another day for those birds I am sure. The man-made marsh in front of the desalination plant at Ras Abu Jarjur is a great space for many water dependent species and so it proved for me on that visit. Not so much for species seen but for the photographic opportunities it offered but only if one is prepared to sit and wait. I had seen a couple of Kingfishers flitting around on arrival so I decided to just wait adjacent to a perch they left. 47 mins later one, a female returned to pose for me. After a short while however a Clamorous Reed Warbler decided he wanted the same space. The interaction between the two species was interesting neither would give way until in frustration the Kingfisher gave up and flew to a less productive fishing perch around the corner.
Kingfisher interacts with a Clamorous Reed Warbler
Kingfisher gives up and moves on
Clamorous Reed Warbler the victor
Black-headed Gulls by the beach full south of Askar
Eastern European - Siberian Gulls filled any vacant spaces not filled by the Black-headed gulls
Great White Egret
one of our wintering Marsh Harriers spent a unfruitful half hour or so hunting the marsh
Moorhen always around always watching
Pair of Palm or more properly Laughing Doves
Grey Heron so many they are hard to ignore
always around any brackish margins Temmincks Stint
Caspian Tern currently breeding but get to close to a nest they can be rather aggressive otherwise will fly above to check you out
Which bring me onto Friday - Had intended an early start but got way-layed after finding two young local photographers at Adhari. I spent far too long chatting to get the early birds and ended up only with another stone chat, no regrets however loved their enthusiasm will take them out next weekend with me. I decided to pop in to the outfall at Ras Tubli and that proved so much better than anticipated even though the tide was out. It is one of those sites that a 3/4 tide is best.
At Tubli several Garganey were easily found but surprisingly that day no Teal with them or Mallard for that matter
One of many Shoveller they will venture way out into the open bay
Squacco Heron foun d along the back ditch, a fresh water drain outfall is always an interesting to look
Was watching this Western Reef Herons heron when he disturbed the bird of the weekend
The over zealous charging about antics of the Western Reef thankfully were too much for the tiny in comparison Striated Heron to bare
I hadn't noticed the Striated Heron crouched very low and hardly moving in its favoured fishing mode - this is probably only the 6th record for Bahrain. Although now having watched one for several hours, I know only too well now how easy it is to overlook or miss the species entirely.
Some weekends just turn out great even when not expected to be so. The forecast was for a shammal - strong winds and dust but despite some windy moments it never really mounted to anything enabling me to get two key observational elements under my belt. The first quantitative numbers for the Hypocolius at Jasra and the second to check on the breeding status of the Socotra Cormorant on Hawar. I have been out around Hawar recently chasing Dugong without much success; they are there in good numbers but at times remain elusive. But on this occasion it was the cormorant Colony on Hawar that was my focus of attention - a pending shammal was the last thing I needed.
I had hoped to get to Hawar on Friday but never even made the jetty we cancelled early the forecast had been that bad, thus at the crack of dawn 5-30 I was out to Jasra to count Hypocolius. Photography as usual was difficult. The rising sun doesn't help, the birds always managed to display on a bush or tree in the suns direction, I doesn't seem to matter where you decided to wait out their arrival the best visuals are always that direction. I was surprised to find a good number of birds already in situ on arrival just before six, suggesting it is more than a stopover. It could be a minor evening roost. By seven I had counted 218 birds when it went quiet however another large flock of fresh birds dropped in just as I was about to leave around 7:10. Given the direction of their arrival I think I know where they had roosted; will check that out another time. They didn't stay long but I estimate that they numbered over a 100 birds. 300 plus Hypocolius at what is a basically a stopover point is a good way to start any weekend. Friends passed the site at 8 and found but 5 birds so feel confident with the a number of around 325.
Curlew those at Hamalah fodder fields have increased to 5
Desert Wheatear at Hamalah
Pied Wheatear a lot more still hanging in there normally most have disappeared by now
Skylark have stated to arrive
Water Pipit just a few but obvious by their dark legs
Tawny Pipit numbers continue to increase
Stonechat still only 3 at Hamalah
Swallow when they start settling like this you know the big off is not that far away
So on to the my quick visit to Hawar and the Socotra Cormorant colony now on the Rubuds. One thing people need to realize is that the cormorants time their breeding season to the arrival of the sardine? schools which in itself brings in other larger potential food fish. So the Birds start to breed some time normally from late September the first chicks hatch just as the bait size fish schools start appearing. These pics were from at the jetty taken before we left a good indicator of the size of the potential food available to the sea birds.
I expected to find a good cross section of birds at the colony - I was not disappointed it was as expected two to three week old chicks aplenty forming up in creches , birds on the periphery excavating so about to start and plenty of tiny heads popping up indicating freshly hatched chicks. I did not approach too close to the colony but observed them from a distance with my bins - the pics were taken with the long lens. Not the best but good indicators of the colony status, the task in hand. The breeding areas are used still maintain the integrity of three separate elements; the largest is in the center of the Island the other two on a spit of slightly sandier substrate that form a ridge that runs to the north east corner. How long this will remain so is hard to predict as the chicks become mobile. Rubud Ash Sharqiyah (East) virtual disappears at times with the highest seasonal tides particularly when these occur when a shammal is blowing.
Either someone has wiped out entire species of migrant populations or the continuing hot weather and global warming is having a distinct detrimental effect on the migration pattern we are experiencing here this year. Or are there other factors having an effect. There remains a distinct shortage of small stuff - mostly warblers and pipits even wagtails but alarmingly for instance no Oriels and only a few Rollers and thrush species have been noted. Both myself and friends who photograph birds in passing on a regular basis have recorded the same to the point that we are asking "where have our birds gone". Normally I am away for August but this year I wasn't so under recording or lack of obs time is not a factor. Someone suggested that this was not the effect of global warming alone but due to the fact that to our north we have large war zones through which our birds have to pass and people were hunting birds out of necessity birds for food or as in the case for Saudi and Kuwait hunting them just for fun to the point few are making it through.
In a normal year the Hypocolius arrive from around the 15th of October this year it was this weekend two weeks late. They are a species I monitor very closely - when here they can be easily found very early any mornings as they do congregate in know areas. They do however remain at this time of day difficult to photograph the rising sun can be difficult to get around.
Clamorous Reed Warbler now a resident breeding species
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater a steady passage but overall small in comparison to other years
Bee-eater a disappointing show
1st year Citrine Wagtail fast becoming a rarity
Curlew despite the hundreds around our shores only now has the one become two at Hamalah
Isabelline Shrike a species bucking the trend - good numbers this year here 3 of the 5 at Hamalah
Isabelline Wheatear reasonable numbers
Stonechat just beginning to arrive in any real numbers
White Wagtail just the odd one or two normally we have hundreds
Cattle Egrets now a substantial breeding species
Little Grebe like many resident breeding species it has been a good year
No shortage on the shore thankfully of our regular species other than Spoonbills and Marsh Sandpiper - Back-headed Gull - one of thousands
Mallard an unusual sight to behold at Hamalah - a fodder farm
Common Mynah an escaped species reaching almost plague proportions in some areas
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