Friday, 9 March 2012

South of Khartoum near the Blue Nile

We have been hoping to try out some new spots, so this week Stephen, Terry and I headed south along the Wad Madani Road to an area near the Blue Nile about 30 km south of Khartoum. Stephen had spotted a 'green' area on Google Earth last week and made a brief trip to check the place out, though had had little time for any birding. The area we visited first is a few km from the Blue Nile; it is irrigated by numerous narrow channels lined with bushes and some reeds. We spent most time walking along one of these channels, checking the surrounding fields. It was quickly evident that many waterbirds were using the channel and we flushed Openbill Storks, Grey Herons, Purple Herons, Squacco Herons, Egrets, and Long-tailed Cormorants.

Long-tailed Cormorants, 
Blue Nile 30 km south of Khartoum 9th March 2012

Squacco Heron, 
Blue Nile 30 km south of Khartoum 9th March 2012

There were lots of birds in the surrounding fields, but most interesting for us was that they were quite a different mix to what we have seen at our regular haunts. There were lots of sandgrouse flying around in small groups, but as always they were very hard to see well, photograph and identify.  All those seen well enough appeared to be Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, which is the most expected species. There were quite a few Northern Carmine Bee-eaters and Collared Pratincoles, but none came close enough for photographs. I have seen a few Speckled Pigeons, but this was my first opportunity to get a shot of one, as there were several individuals flying past. A harrier flew overhead too quickly to allow decent views, but on reviewing my photos I had a good enough shot of the underparts to identify it as a Montague's Harrier, which I think is my first in Sudan.

Speckled Pigeon, 
Blue Nile 30 km south of Khartoum 9th March 2012

Montague's Harrier, 
Blue Nile 30 km south of Khartoum 9th March 2012

There were few migrant passerines around, with only an Isabelline Shrike, a Rufous Scrub-Robin a Lesser Whitethroat and a few hirundines. Resident passerines included the more typical farmland birds such as Crested Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Red-billed Quelea, Northern Red Bishop and some unidentified weavers.

Isabelline Shrike, 
Blue Nile 30 km south of Khartoum 9th March 2012

We then headed over to a small farm on the banks of the Blue Nile. It was noticeable how much wider the river is here than in Khartoum, with large sandbanks due to the low water levels. There were few birds on the river, but one nice sighting was a distant Spur-winged Goose - my first outside of South Sudan.

Spur-winged Goose, 
Blue Nile 30 km south of Khartoum 9th March 2012

There were some other interesting birds around including some Red-rumped Swallows and a Black-shouldered Kite. A kestrel flew over and the buffy underparts gave us the impression of a Lesser Kestrel, though it was later clear from photos that it was in fact a Common Kestrel.

Black-shouldered Kite, 
Blue Nile 30 km south of Khartoum 9th March 2012

Common Kestrel, 
Blue Nile 30 km south of Khartoum 9th March 2012

We all enjoyed getting out into some new habitat and seeing different birds. There must be lots of good places along the Nile like this and we will have to keep searching for new ones.

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