Some days you see stuff you just cant believe actually happened worse still when you tell somebody they simply say "Oh really"? But and it is a big but, occasionally an event happens right in front of your eyes. The Gods are smiling, you have the camera already, it's pointed in the right direction. CLICK CLICK - So it was this occasion Lucky well yes maybe but the thing was I was there and given the weather I could so easily have stayed in bed. The day was the 10th of March location Buri; 14 seconds and 17 frames later is all over that was need to record what follows -
Ornithologically speaking the event that has stirred up most interest on my twitter feed these last few weeks was my photographic capture of the attempted predation of a Northern Wheatear by a Isabelline Shrike. An attempted ‘kill’ that only failed when the Shrike was momentarily distracted by the passage of a Marsh Harrier overhead and the Wheatear managed to escape, to wriggle free from the Shrikes clutches.
I was zeroing in on the Northern Wheatear when the attack happened, I should point out I was still in my car as the bird was on my side of a track in a field of okra. It was, as is usual in these encounters, staying just ahead of me, moving from bush to bush as I edged forward; distance wise, always the wrong side of too far for that classic close up photograph. Persistence and patience is as always the key, the Wheatear finally dropped to the ground to feed on some bug so I angled the car across the track to get a decent shot. Camera already out the window luckily for me, just as I had focused the Shrike struck. I had at that point not noticed the presence of the Isabelline Shrike myself; on reflection I don’t think the Wheatear had either.
The attack was incredibly fast; it came as if from nowhere. The Shrike struck from the rear landing on the Wheatears back. I just watched clicked away trying to keep the scuffling birds in focus, the car still in gear slowly angling closer by the microsecond. By the time the Wheatear had escaped and disappeared into the depths of the okra and the Shrike had moved to a distant fence line, I was left thinking ‘what the…’ not too certain what I had just witnessed however I did have a good number of usable frames on my camera in a time frame of only 14 seconds. Which on review turned out to be excluding the also-rans, 17 clear, reasonably focused images, which were much better than I dared hoped for, given the circumstance.
I only casually glanced through the images in the field too many other birds a calling to spend too long pondering what was, or what might have been. It was only when I got home and uploaded them to my big apple that the wealth of information and detail of the manner of the attempted ‘Kill” clearly visible on the images became apparent.
So how does a Shrike “Kill” or should we ask how does such a small predatory species take down another bird virtually its own size. On this occasion the key to the Shrikes’ strike was the use of its feet combined with its natural speed, stealth and strength.
To summarize – an extremely fast attack from the rear onto the victims back enabling the Shrike to grab the victim high up on both legs all in the same movement. Clamped onto the femur, the Shrike is then able to spread-eagle the legs causing the victim to collapse to the ground in an instant. With the victim pinned to the floor the Shrike is perfected placed then to attack the neck and throat as they became openly exposed as the victim instinctively turns its head to face and fend of the attacker.
Had the Marsh Harrier not passed over I am certain the outcome would have been in favour of the Shrike and my series of snaps would have run to a few but bloody dozen more.
Friday was a pleasant day no matter which way you look back on it, bright sunny and reasonably calm whereas Saturday was a complete opposite blustery with tremendous thunderstorms, the lightning and rain were at times spectacular.
Bird wise not a lot to report - some early Red-throated Thrush had led me last week to a personal first, a female Black-throated. This week I saw several males in the same area indicating a small influx as has been the case with this species in the past. Some close misses with the camera though had remained the story as earlier in the week - seen observed and no clicks unfortunately as well for a host of migrants and wintering species. But there were some notable exceptions as follows
Crested Honey Buzzard first static images for me of this species
Caspian Plover - turning up in same area of Buri as in past years - they just love manure heaps
Sociable Plover a chance encounter while driving between Jasra and Hamalah
Hypocolius still a lot around here taking cover from the rain but wont be long now however before their departure
Isabelline but a very Brown looking shrike - the white patches are not however consistent with Brown so is it a hybrid ?? or just a dark individual
Isabelline Wheatear taking in and enjoying the early morning rays
Great Black-headed Gull an unexpected overhead visitor while en route to Jarada Island
Channel Marker for entrance to Bahrain deep water sea port with Lesser Created Terns and a pale looking large Gull
Jarada Island a disappointing Friday afternoon trip bird wise it was full of people
Lesser White-throat most probably Desert
Meneteries Warbler this one turned up in my garden in Manama
Pied Wheatear now the most frequently seen Wheatear
Prina or Graceful Warbler
Red-tailed Wheatear - extremely territorial seems to be only tolerant of Mournings
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush enjoying the scenery as the desert blooms after these spring rains
Song Thrush feeding on a road side verge at Amwaj Islands resort
Starling another obs from the garden this last week
Woodchat Shrike - a sizable passage again this year
Redshank - just a high tide huddle off
Kingfisher enjoying the sea side in front of Arad Fort
This weekend was really frustrating, the weather although drafty was OK and there was at least plenty to photograph with the migration really beginning to take hold but and it was a big but, nothing really wanted to play ball. If it could move before the final click it did. Working around driving hazards, wet and waterlogged ground and access ways brought the usually results a sticky end as expected but it was the nature of many an encounter that was odd. It appeared that the birds had other things on there minds unfortunately having a snapshot taken wasn't one of them.
Black-eared Wheatear - female, a rather odd encounter just kept the same aspect to me all the time
Blue Rock Thrush remain just the wrong side of close for a good picture
Chiffchaff - fast feeders that wiz through a bush or tree approach not the problem - find focus and click speeds were
Great Grey Shrike
Hypocolius found a nice sized flock close to two hundred in a totally inaccessible site so I didnt spend much time watching after the generally bins count was done
Stonechat as confiding as ever but about to depart after wintering
Thrush large numbers around but always elusive
NOT a Red Throated Robin as I had guessed given its odd appearance turns out this is Black-throated Thrush female It was really hard work to get anywhere close to this bird but not upset I then got the ID wrong - IN FACT QUITE THE CONTRARY I'm really happy with the mistake as this turns out to be first for me
My thanks to people on my Twitter feed and to Gavin Farnell over in Qatar still there are over a dozens real Red throated around in Buri hopefully they will remain til next w/e
The frustrates - included Corn and Ortalan Bunting, Red-throated, meadow and tree Pipits, Greater and Lesser Larks plus many warblers seen rather often glimpsed
After the cold snap it rained, rained and rained and now its flood flood flood with a bit of wind from lord knows where for good measure - Climate change, personally I have no idea but things are sure as hell messed up!!
The shore count for birds remains much the same species wise but the number has increased rapidly resulting in a visual spectacular on a high tide when huge flocks can be seen often species by species stood out in any quiet corner.
Flamingo huge numbers wintering this year - the bad weather brings many in close range for a decent individual photograph
Dunlin probably the most numerous of all waders at the moment
Great Black-headed Gull a solitary bird usually this one was found in Busaiteen
large White headed Gull but which species - do the bookks help well not really have a guess
Kentish Plover normally busy breeding at this time but the cold and wet has delayed the start
Marsh Sandpiper a rather distant bird
Hamalah after the rain
Great Grey Shrike
House Sparrow a rather pale individual
Desert Lark out but directly under the sun
Clamorous Reed Warbler singing its heart out
Block Rock Thrush
Pied Wheatear the seasons first starting to pass in good numbers
Rufous Tailed Rock Thrush
The weather remains the big talking point here this week - with strong winds and temperatures dropping to around 5 or 6c add a wind chill factor of many more, its cold - no wonder that some animals and birds species have become difficult to find.
Grey Hypocolius -- a solitary bird found one afternoon was a really lucky encounter and a great photographic opportunity
Great Grey Shrike found in the same area as the Hypocolius in Jasra
Black Redstart - as previously recorded but continues to show well
Stonechat - found these two keeping company at Adhari
Siberian Stonechat - always difficult to separate given the winter plumage of many
Spanish Sparrows just a few from the flock at Hamalah
Bluethroat remain illusive
Grey Francolin always around and easy to snap
Grey Heron are normally difficult to approach - being huddled down out of the wind made the difference
Prinia or Graceful Warbler
All the photos that follow were taken at Adhari soon to be unnecessarily developed - lost as a wildlife sanctuary
such stupidity should never have been allowed
Greed and lack of appreciation from environmental agencies to Land owner
of what could be are to blame
Mongoose always nice to see
Black-crowned Night Heron
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