Saturday 29 January 2011

Juba in the dry season

This is a well overdue second post from Juba, after my first in September last year. Juba is now in the grip of the dry season: dusty and hot. The skies are still full of Kites, Milvus migrans ssp., but I have yet to ascertain the mix of subspecies present. I photographed the bird below earlier today. I originally considered it to be of the nominate subspecies, Milvus migrans migrans, as it has a dark bill. However, I see that in his Atlas of Sudan’s birds, Nikolaus states that aegyptius breeding along the Red Sea coast also have black bills, and Stevenson and Fanshawe's Birds of East Africa states that immature parasiticus has a black bill. The head seems very uniform in colour for migrans, so most likely this is an immature aegyptius or parasiticus Yellow-billed Kite.

Presumed immature parasiticus or aegyptius subspecies of Yellow-billed Kite

There are still several tens of Hooded Vultures Necrosyrtes monachus present, often near the abattoir. This area also hosts a population of at least 60 Piapiacs Ptilostomus afer, a curious long-tailed crow that I was delighted to find. In Kenya, where I used to live, the species is very localised along the Ugandan border. In Juba, Piapiacs are not associated with cattle (and obviously not game animals), contra the statement in Stevenson and Fanshawe’s Birds of East Africa, which is my only reference book at present.


Other typical Juba birds are African Mourning Doves Streptopelia decipiens and Grey-backed Fiscals Lanius excubitoroides.

There are a few small wetland areas immediately around the town, and of course the White Nile flows along the eastern edge. Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus have arrived, with a total of 92 seen flying to roost by the White Nile in 30 minutes earlier this week. A small marsh 3kms out of Juba held a variety of herons today, as well as two Yellow-billed Storks Mycteria ibis, which hunted in the shallow water by shading the surface with one wing extended.

Yellow-billed Storks

Sedges along the edge were full of non-breeding plumage Bishops Euplectes sp. There were also a pair of Blue-headed Coucals Centropus monachus, Winding Cisticolas Cisticola galactotes, Zitting Cisticolas Cisticola juncidis uropygialis and Yellow Wagtails Motacilla flava (subspecies not determined).

Winding Cisticola

I’ve started to explore the burnt and parched open bushland and woodland north and east of Juba. Palearctic migrants include Common Redstarts Phoenicurus p. phoenicurus, Whinchats Saxicola rubetra, Woodchat Shrikes Lanius senator, and one Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus of the subspecies isabellinus or phoenicuroides.

Woodchat Shrike

Isabelline Shrike

Residents or local migrants include Foxy Cisticola Cisticola troglodytes, Brown Babbler Turdoides plebejus, Black-headed Gonolek Laniarius erythrogaster, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser mahali, Speckle-fronted Weaver Sporopipes frontalis, Little Weaver Ploceus luteolus and Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes. Perched at intervals on tree tops are Dark Chanting-Goshawks Melierax metabatesi and Grasshopper Buzzards Butastur rufipennis.

Grasshopper Buzzard

That's a taster...more to follow.

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