Sunday 26 September 2010

Still no big falls of migrants at Tuti

I was out with Daniel again this weekend. A group of three Gabar Goshawks performed well for us. I expect they were a family group, though none appeared to be immatures. One was the attractive Black morph.
Gabar Goshawk, Tuti, 24th September 2010

Once again, most migrant activity was at the northern end of the island, with some birds (such as one Black-eared Wheatear) behaving like they had just arrived. This was the first we have recorded on Tuti, though Mark Mallalieu saw one nearby a couple of weeks ago (see the report of his walk along the Blue Nile). Other new migrants to report were a Common Whitethroat and a Lesser Whitethroat. An immature Common Rock-Thrush was also a nice find. Once again, we were left discussing why there weren't the big numbers of migrants that we had been expecting. Maybe there is so much vegetation along the Nile that Tuti is not such a big draw. There were still interesting birds, such as those below, to give us plenty to watch.

Little Bee-eater, Tuti, 24th September 2010

Tree Pipit, Tuti, 24th September 2010

Blue-naped Mousebird, Tuti, 24th september 2010

A falcon that flew right past us may well have been a Red-necked Falcon, but the views were too brief and we didn't see it well enough to be sure. That will be something to look out for next time.

Juba raptors

Hooded Vulture

I've just moved to Juba after five weeks in Khartoum. Bird-wise, one immediate impression is that there's a much greater variety of raptors here. Hooded Vultures Necrosyrtes monachus are numerous, with at least 50 seen daily. Next most common are Yellow-billed Kites Milvus migrans parasiticus/aegyptius, with about 10 daily. Other species seen in ones and twos include:

Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
African White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus
Eastern Chanting-Goshawk Melierax poliopterus
African Harrier-Hawk Polyboroides typus
Wahlberg's Eagle Aquila wahlbergi
Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus
Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis
Red-necked Falcon Falco chicquera

Today I also saw what I believe was a European Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus, a species I was studying in UK.

The scavenging vultures are accompanied by Marabou Storks Leptoptilos crumeniferus, with up to 10 daily.

I'll say a bit about other local birds in my next post.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Tuti again

This week I met up with Daniel Gonzalez for another trip to Tuti. There were still some signs of migration, such as a group of Yellow Wagtails heading south along the river, but it was not as visible as it had been a week before. There were some Greenshank around, which was a species I had not seen on the island previously. 
Cattle Egret, Tuti 17th September 2010

 Pin-tailed Whydah, Tuti 17th September 2010

As has been the case over the last few weeks, the most visible migrants were at the northern end of the island near the fort. It may just be that it is more open here and birds are more visible, or the location may mean that greater numbers arrive at this point. Much of the rest of the island is thick vegetation with lots of thorny acacia. It is therefore likely that the majority of migrants are arriving and disappearing from sight. There were a few shrikes (three species), a couple of Spotted Flycatchers, a couple of Eurasian Golden Orioles, and some Willow Warblers that were behaving like new arrivals. 
Willow Warbler, Tuti 17th September 2010

Whinchat, Tuti 17th September 2010

Three Whinchats was the highest yet and further indication that new birds had arrived. A probable Upchers Warbler sneaked into the undergrowth before it could be fully identified.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Visible migration at Tuti

On September 12th Mark Boyd, Mark Mallalieu, Tom Maley and I went out to Tuti island. There were few new migrants on the island itself (except for some new Tree Pipits), but there were good numbers of birds flying south over the island that were clearly migrating. There were some quite large groups of European Turtle Doves, with probably around 100 birds seen in total.  Several groups of Golden Orioles also passed over, numbering perhaps 25 in total. We saw a few Sand Martins, a group of Yellow Wagtails, a single Glossy Ibis, a group of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and several Whiskered Terns. None of these was particularly unexpected, but it made for exciting birding when you were never quite sure what the next batch of birds would bring. The movements seemed to be over by about 9am.

Saturday 11 September 2010

A walk along the Blue Nile

Great to have this blog up and running. On 9th and 10th September I walked along the south bank of the Blue Nile east of the bridge to Kufori. There’s farmland along much of this area, mostly flooded at present. About 3kms east of the bridge there is an impounded area with open water as well as sandy expanses and pools. This was rewarding, with Terek Sandpiper, Little and Temminck’s Stints and more Egyptian Plovers than I’ve seen so far. Bird list below (records are from 10th if asterisked, otherwise from 9th).

Squacco Heron

Ardeola ralloides


Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis


Striated Heron

Butorides striata


Great Egret

Egretta alba


Little Egret

Egretta garzetta


Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea


Black-headed Heron

Ardea melanocephala


Abdim’s Stork

Ciconia abdimii


Sacred Ibis

Threskiornis aethiopicus


White-faced Whistling Duck

Dendrocygna viduata



Anas querquedula


Yellow-billed Kite

Milvus (migrans) aegyptius



Accipiter badius


Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus


Egyptian Plover

Pluvianus aegyptius


Little Ringed Plover

Charadrius dubius


Common Ringed Plover

Charadrius hiaticula


Kittlitz’s Plover

Charadrius pecuarius


Spur-winged Lapwing

Vanellus spinosus



Philomachus pugnax



Tringa nebularia


Green Sandpiper

Tringa ochropus


Wood Sandpiper

Tringa glareola


Marsh Sandpiper

Tringa stagnatilis


Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos


Terek Sandpiper

Xenus cinereus


Little Stint

Calidris minuta


Temminck’s Stint

Calidris temminckii


Whiskered Tern

Chlidonias hybrida


White-winged Tern

Chlidonias leucopterus


Namaqua Dove

Oena capensis


African Mourning Dove

Streptopelia decipiens


Laughing Dove

Streptopelia senegalensis


Eurasian Swift

Apus apus


African Palm Swift

Cypsiurus parvus


Blue-naped Mousebird

Urocolius macrourus


Pied Kingfisher

Ceryle rudis


Eurasian Bee-eater

Merops apiaster


Little Bee-eater

Merops pusillus


Little Green Bee-eater

Merops orientalis



Upupa epops


Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark

Eremopterix leucotis


Crested Lark

Galerida cristata


Plain Martin

Riparia paludicola


Wire-tailed Swallow

Hirundo smithii


Ethiopian Swallow

Hirundo aethiopica


Common Bulbul

Pycnonotus barbatus


Black Scrub Robin

Cercotrichas podobe


Black-eared Wheatear

Oenanthe hypoleuca


Marsh/Reed Warbler

Acrocephalus palustris/ scirpaceus


Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Hippolais pallida


Willow Warbler

Phylloscopus trochilus


Graceful Prinia

Prinia gracilis


Spotted Flycatcher

Muscicapa striata


Southern Grey Shrike

Lanius meridionalis


Red-backed Shrike

Lanius collurio


Greater Blue-eared Starling

Lamprotornis chalybaeus


House Sparrow

Passer domesticus


Northern Masked Weaver

Ploceus taeniopterus


Village Weaver

Ploceus cucullatus


Northern Red Bishop

Euplectes franciscanus


Red-billed Firefinch

Lagonosticta senegala


African Silverbill

Lonchura cantans


White-rumped Seed-eater

Serinus leucopygius


Thursday 9 September 2010

A quick visit to Tuti

I made a quick visit to Tuti yesterday morning for a couple of hours. There were still a few migrants about, but fewer than there had been in the previous two visits. Somehow I had expected there to be a solid stream of migrants throughout the autumn migration. There were no obvious changes in weather conditions, but maybe changes further north affect their movements. I will have to start checking the forecasts to see if any pattern emerges.
White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata
The only birds I had not seen before were Yellow-billed (Intermediate) Egret, a couple of White-faced Whistling Ducks and a Common Redshank. I will be out again this weekend to see if things have picked up again.

Monday 6 September 2010

Bird books to use in Sudan

In recent years there have been a number of good quality field guides produced (mainly by Helm) that cover most of Africa. Unfortunately, most of these guides miss out Sudan and only include countries to the north, east, west and south. I guess this is because it would add a large number of species without leading to the sale of many more copies. There are many other good African and Middle East field guides, but I have tried to include only the ones that are recognised as being the most useful for Sudan. Please remember that I have not traveled around the country, so I am making this review based on what I believe to be the situation. Please let me know if my assessment is wrong.

Distribution Atlas of Sudan’s Birds with Notes on Habitat and Status. Nikolaus G. 1987. Bonner Zoologische Monographien, Nr. 25.

This is not a field guide, but gives important information about Sudan’s birds. Information about each species is included and most species have a map to show where they have been recorded. It’s surprisingly thorough given that Sudan has been relatively under-watched over the years.  This is an important resource that is probably only second in importance to a good field guide. Note that there have been many taxonomic changes made since this book was published, so many species in the modern field guides are known by different names.

Birds of the Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouta, Somalia and Socotra. Redman, N., Stevenson, T., and Fanshawe, J. 2009. Helm Field Guides.

This is the best field guide for use by anyone based in Khartoum. There are very few species around Khartoum that are not covered and most would be familiar to European birders. It would be the best in the eastern part of the country in areas bordering Eritrea and Ethiopia.  It is very good quality and the book I take with me into the field.

Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Stevenson, T and Fanshawe, J. 2003. Helm Field Guides.

This is very much a sister field guide to ‘Birds of the Horn of Africa’ discussed above and many of the plates are the same.  Uganda and Kenya have borders with Sudan in the south, so this would probably be the best guide to use in that region of the country, such as around Juba.

Birds of West Africa. Borrow, N and Demey, R. 2008. Helm Field Guides.

Although much of this guide covers countries further west, it also covers Chad and the Central African Republic, which border Sudan to the west and south-west. It would probably be the best guide for use in the west of Sudan.

Birds of the Middle East and North Africa. Hollom, P. A. D., Porter, R. F., Christensen, S. and Willis, I. 1988. T. and A.D. Poyser.

This guide covers areas to the north of Sudan and would be the best guide for the desert regions. It covers Libya and Egypt that border Sudan to the north and Saudi Arabia that faces Sudan across the Red Sea.

Collins Bird Guide 2nd edition. Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D. and Grant, P. J. 2010. Collins.

Widely recognised as one of the best field guides ever published, this book covers most of the species that pass through Sudan on migration from Europe. It covers some of the more difficult species to identify, so although the other field guides may include these species, the Collins Guide will offer more technical detail.

Birds of the Sudan. Cave, F. O. and MacDonald, J. D. 1955. Oliver and Boyd.

This is the only guide that covers Sudan, but it is now very out of date and would not be of any practical use in the field. It is more of interest for its historical perspective.

Birds of Africa South of the Sahara. 2003. Sinclair, I., Ryan, P., Christy, P., Arlott, N. and Hockey, P. Struik.

I don’t have a copy of this book and I have only had a quick flick through it. In my opinion it covers too large an area in one volume, so lacks detail. However, it might be a useful book for anyone who does not want to carry multiple books on a journey through several countries including Sudan.

Fry, C. H. and Keith, S. (Editors) The Birds of Africa vols. 1 to 7.

This seven volume work is the most comprehensive ever published on the birds of Africa.  It is not for field use, but provides the most up to date information on the species in the region.