South Africa (ZA)   Autumn migration has started  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 06:01:47 pm

Week 28, 12 July 2008 - Al Abraq

With the constant northerly winds over the past week, Ian Laiver and I decided to check out Al Abraq in the west. Images by Mike Pope

There was definitely evidence that Autumn migration has started with Hoopoe, Rollers, Upchers Warblers, Masked and this Red backed Shrike seen

Red backed Shrike

The main pond was under repair so crops were being watered by water trucks. It was amazing how quickly birds were attracted to the small flooded areas to take advantage of the instant water source. There were a few Squacco Herons feeding around the edges

Squacco Heron

Two Green Sandpipers seemed to appear from nowhere

Green Sandpiper

This Dhub (Spiny tailed Lizard) had an abundant food supply right outside its burrow - not so for the Dhubs in the real desert


Now, here is a bird that is really out of place in this part of the world. The owners at Al Abraq have a few Emu in captivity as part of the apparent culture in this part of the world; keeping and enjoying exotic pets


South Africa (ZA)   Nightime in the desert  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 05:51:41 pm

Week 28, 12 July 2008 - Al Abraq

Summer birding is a little quiet, so Abdulrahman al Sirhan and I spent a mid summers night exploring the western desert. Images by Mike Pope

We found 2 species of Gecko and managed to photograph one of these. This is a Slevins Gecko (Stenodactylus slevini), around 4cm in length

Desert Gecko

Up close and personal

Slevins Gecko

From above to show its distinguishing features. This one is in the process of growing out a new tail

Slevins Gecko

The second Gecko photographed was around 3cm long and had a variation in the colour

Slevins Gecko

Slevins Gecko from above, this individual shows more obvious barring and chevron type markings on its forehead

Slevins Gecko

A few Lesser Jerboa's (Jaculus jaculus vocator) were seen - these tiny mammals are very active and unbelievably fast, so getting one to stay still was a real challenge

Lesser Jerboa

A little closer after some quiet leopard crawling

Lesser Jerboa


South Africa (ZA)   More summer birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 02:39:52 pm

Week 27, 05 July 2008 - Pivot Fields, SAANR and Jahra East

Jens Toetrup and I were out again today visiting a few more locations. Images by Mike Pope

This morning, we headed for Pivot Fields as the first site, birding was pretty quiet with some Black crowned Finch Larks, Lesser Grey and Red backed Shrike and this lone male Namaqua Dove, in its usual place

Namaqua Dove

Next stop was SAANR where we found a single Hoopoe Lark on the top of the ridge sheltering next to the small pool

Hoopoe Lark

At Tuhla we had Isabelline and Masked Shrike, Upchers Warbler and 3 Common Kestrels

Common Kestrel

Last stop was Jahra East outfall for the high tide at noon, Whiskered Terns were still outnumbered by White winged Black Terns

Whiskered Tern

Pretty much the same waders as yesterday, I caught this Marsh Sandpiper coming in at speed to land

Marsh Sandpiper

Dunlin's in breeding plumage were present today - here is one head on


And two departing


South Africa (ZA)   Hot, clear summers day  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 01:04:41 pm

Week 27, 04 July 2008 - Jahra East Outfall

I hosted Jens Toetrup, a visiting Danish birder from our northern neighbour for the weekend and visited a few locations north of the city. Images by Mike Pope

Just before noon we had a big high tide at Jahra East; unfortunately noon is not the best time of day for photography. In the reeds on the dirty side, we had a single Pied Avocet

Pied Avocet

In the same patch, a Black tailed Godwit in breeding plumage (coming, going or staying?)and two juvenile White tailed Lapwings

Black tailed Godwit and juvenile White tailed Plover

As we were about to leave, a flock of Collared Pratincoles dropped in, 2 adults and the balance juveniles

Collared Pratincoles

On the clean side, there were fair numbers of White winged Black Terns in various stages of breeding plumage

White winged Black Tern

On the incoming tide, we had a variety of waders in fairly small numbers - Curlew Sandpiper still in non-breeding plumage

Curlew Sandpiper

Many juvenile Kentish Plover's

Juvenile Kentish Plover

A Little Stint resplendent in breeding regalia - unusual for me coming from South Africa. This is like seeing a new bird, as they are always in non-breeding plumage by the time they arrive in SA

Little Stint

Little Terns were present but as a single bird here and there

Little Tern


South Africa (ZA)   A tyranny of Terns on Kubbah  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 11:32:35 am

Week 26, 28 June 2008 - Kubbah Island

I was fortunate enough to get out to Kubbah Island again to check on the progress of the breeding terns, which had increased in numbers. Images by Mike Pope

The Bridled Terns make are seen out at sea as you approach the island. On last visit there were very few eggs, this time almost every salt bush all over the island had a tern sitting on an egg, with very few that had hatched at this stage. The Bridled Terns were not as aggressive as the other two species on the island. This is an adult, above its nest

Bridled Tern

The Bridled Terns mostly lay single eggs under salt bushes, for some protection from the elements. Im not aware of any other predators on the island, but there is aggression on juveniles that venture out of their 'allocated' area by the other species

Bridled Tern egg

The only Bridled Tern chick I discovered on this visit

Bridled Tern chick

Some of the Lesser crested Terns were still congregated on one area of the island, these birds eggs had not yet hatched - this is the last of the brood colony and lay their eggs in small depressions made in the sand

Lesser crested Terns

A brand new Lesser crested Tern chick on the edge of the brood colony

Lesser crested Tern chick

This ringed adult had elected to move away from the brood colony with its chick (very well camoflaged)

Lesser crested Tern and chick

The more mobile Lesser crested Tern chicks had ventured to the rocks and were well protected by the adults against the repeated 'attacks' from the White cheeked Terns nesting nearby

Lesser crested Tern and chicks

The Lesser crested Terns were pretty agressive if you ventured to close to their young, this is what it looks like to be on the pointed end of an angry adult coming straight at you and missing you by inches

Lesser crested Tern

Lesser crested Tern

White cheeked Tern numbers had increased dramatically (est 1000 birds) since the last visit and the ratio between eggs and chicks was around 50/50. This is part of the breeding colony

White cheeked Terns

Not as aggressive as the Lesser crested, but the White cheeked did also dive at you if you got too close

White cheeked Terns

The White cheeked lay their eggs on in direct sunlight. They make scrapes in the available dead grass and what little vegetation there is. I estimate this chick to be a day old.

White cheeked Tern chick

This adult is protecting its young from the direct sun. It also appeared that the adults would fly to the sea, dip their breast feathers in the water and return to the nest - possbily helping keeping the eggs or young a little cooler?

White cheeked Tern with chick

The behavior during feeding was interesting, the parent presents the 'mulched' fish to the young - if the young drops it during the transfer, the adult immediately picks up the fish, flies out to see and hits the water, to wash the sand off the fish and returns to try again. This is an adult on one of those return flights

White cheeked Terns

The adult trying to pass the fish to its chick - I think it eventually succeeded after the 4th attempt

White cheeked Tern feeding chick

Im not sure why the older chicks that were mobile, moved down to the beach - possibly because it is cooler

White cheeked Tern adult and chick on the beach

Getting away from 'danger' - us humans

White cheeked Tern

A first summer White cheeked Tern in the middle of the breeding colony was a bit of a surprise

White cheeked Tern - 1st summer

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