South Africa (ZA)   Waiting for the migrants  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 12:14:41 pm

Week 09 - 22 February 2011, Sharq Harbour

I left home early to miss the traffic madness and was able to spend 30-minutes at Sharq Harbour just after sunrise and still get to work on time, on a great spring morning. Images by Mike Pope

Slender-billed Gulls are starting to display their pinkish hue

Slender-billed Gull

Black-heaed Gulls are coming into breeding plumage prior to their departure

Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gull

The larger white-headed gulls are starting to look less tatty than when they first arrived at the beginning of winter, the first three are Heuglin’s Gull (Larus f/h. heuglini), told by the two nice mirrors on P9 and P10 with black reaching P4 and deep grey moons on P6 and P7. Also the bill is much heavier with a stronger gonys than Caspian (thanks Yoav)

Heuglin's Gull

Heuglin's Gull

Heuglin's Gull

We suspect this is another 4cy heuglini (still some black on tail)and P10 unmoulted - typically late moult. Note the massive bill and head, very dark upperparts


a couple of Collared Doves were feeding on the sidewalk

Collared Dove

both pale morph Indian Reef Heron

Pale morph Indian Reef Heron

and dark morph Indian Reef Heron were seen around the harbour

Dark morph Indian Reef Heron

I had some entertainment with the few Great Cormorants seen around the harbour - here one that gorged itself on fish after fish

Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant

A male looking cool in his breeding plumage

Great Cormorant

A perfect reflection

Great Cormorant

Some were seen flying south down the coast

Great Cormorant


Great Cormorant

Not very graceful on take-off, but effective nevertheless

Great Cormorant


South Africa (ZA)   Spring has sprung  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 12:49:55 pm

Week 08 - 19 February 2011, Pivot Fields and Jahra Pools Reserve

I was up fresh and early and at Pivot Fields by 7am to enjoy what was a fantastic clear spring morning - what a difference in temperature from my last outing. Images by Mike Pope

An early start is great as you catch some of the birds that are still roosting, like this Common Kestrel

Common Kestrel

At the croc ponds, I found the female Black Redstart that was seen last week by Graham Whitehead

Black Redstart

Many Chiffchaff were heard calling in the reeds at the croc ponds, but no sign of the Pygmy Cormorant


The numbers of Hoopoes seen have increased since my last visit


Whereas Skylark (with it's long primary projection) numbers have decreased


I flushed an Oriental Skylark and amazingly was able to relocate it again on the opposite side of the pivot field. These images clearly show the much shorter primary projection - one of key features to separate it from Skylark along with being shorter tailed and broader winged than Skylark and lacking the obvious white trailing edge to the wing

Oriental Skylark

Oriental Skylark

Oriental Skylark

Barn Swallows, Pallid Swifts, House Martins and Red-rumped Swallows were still present

Red-rumped Swallow

Stonechat numbers were also up and I managed to see the nominate male species and two sub-species


Yellow Wagtails are now increasing and some in breeding plumage, like this feldegg

Yellow Wagtail

I ticked 7 raptor species in a couple of hours, including Black Kite

Black Kite

Long-legged Buzzard which are still skittish

Long-legged Buzzard

The male Pallid Harrier which seems to hunt in the same corner of the farm

Pallid Harrier

and a few Spotted Eagles

Spotted Eagle

After a few enjoyable hours I departed for Jahra Pools where water levels had subsided a little, creating exposed sand banks for waders which have arrived in small numbers. Black-winged Stilt are resplendent in breeding plumage

Black-winged Stilt

There were numbers of Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

as well as Ruff and Marsh Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper

White-tailed Plover has returned

White-tailed Plover

A single Grey Heron was lurking outside of the reserve

Grey Heron

a tatty looking Citrine Wagtail foraging on the dead reeds

Citrine Wagtail

Little Crakes are back in numbers

Litte Crake

another male Stonechat on the way out



South Africa (ZA)   Signs of Spring  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 05:22:36 pm

Week 06 - 05 February 2011, Pivot Fields, Jahra Pools Reserve and SAANR

After another late night out, I was grateful for the autofocus functions on my DSLR as I covered the usual sites on this morning's outing. Images by Mike Pope

I was at Pivot Fields by 7am and it was still pretty brisk. After driving round the farm, the most productive area was a freshly cut alfalfa field that had loads of Pipits and Wagtails. Water Pipits are by far the most prevalant

Water Pipit

Interspersed with a few Red-throated Pipits, this a 2cy; note the bold mantle pattern, pattern of breast streaks and background colour to underparts

Red-throated Pipit

and another showing a tinge of red coming through on the throat

Red-throated Pipit

Hints of early spring migration were evident, as overhead I missed a small flock of Common Swifts, but found amongst the big aerial flock of Hirundines, many House Martins

House Martin

A couple of Red-rumped Swallows

Red-rumped Swallow

the majority of the flock was made up with Pallid Swifts

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Isabelline Wheatears were found along the fringes of the fields

Isabelline Wheatear

as were Spanish Sparrow foraging on some thistle like plants

Spanish Sparrow

only one Stonechat was seen


Some raptors were seen - Black Kite, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and 2 or 3 Spotted Eagles

Spotted Eagle

again, I found the long staying Indian Roller

Indian Roller

this Yellow Wagtail was my first for the spring

Yellow Wagtail

Cattle Egrets enjoy catching insects in the spray of the Pivots

Cattle Egret

on the way out, I saw this Pipit, but only managed one image before it departed. Initially I thought Tawny, but it doesnt show the dark loral line, so I am now unsure of its ID


I headed to Jahra Pools, even though it is full, it has been dry too long and too cold for any food to grow for birds and as a result it is not as productive as it should be, but that will change when it warms up. SAANR wasnt too productive either in the cold wind. I only managed this Bar-tailed Lark

Bar-tailed Lark

On the previous weekend, I managed a few images from the Free Trade Zone where I found a flock of 40+ Oystercatchers on the incoming tide


Sharq harbour had a big flock of feeding Great Cormorants out in the bay

Great Cormorant

Sulaibikhat produced a Common Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher

Gull-billed Terns over the outfall

Gull-billed Tern

together with a few Whiskered Terns

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

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