Thursday 24 March 2011

Tuti visit with Joop

Yesterday I made a brief visit to Tuti Island with Joop as it was his last day before heading back to Holland. All of my previous visits have been in the morning and this was the first time I have visited in the evening. It was noticeably quiet when we arrived at about 4:30 and I felt that we would not see much, but things picked up considerably in the last hour or so before dusk. Of particular note were the very large numbers of African Palm Swifts throughout the island, numbering several hundred. It was hard to be certain, but they gave the impression of being migrants. However, this begs the question of where they would be migrating to as their range does not extend much further north and they are residents here in Khartoum. There were also singles of Little Swift and Common Swift (surprisingly, my first in the country).

African Palm Swift, Tuti, 23rd March 2011

The northern end of the island appeared to have the majority of the migrants with quite a few Northern and Black-eared Wheatears, a Eurasian Hobby (my first in Sudan), and a Rufous Scrub Robin. There were around 20 Red-rumped Swallows that were clearly heading north, which were also my first records in the country.

Red-rumped Swallow, Tuti, 23rd March 2011

Also notable were the large flocks of Sudan Golden Sparrows numbering several hundred. Earlier in the year I had only seen the odd birds every few visits. It is not clear whether this was a seasonal aggregation or migrating groups. There was a northward movement of gulls and terns on the river, including one large group of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. I have regularly seen Rose-ringed Parakeets flying over, but this was the first to stop and pose for the camera.

Rose-ringed Parakeet, Tuti, 23rd March 2011

My second visit to Sabaluka - The Sixth Cataract

I made my second visit to Sabaluka last weekend, accompanied by Joop Vrielink a visiting birder from the Netherlands. After turning off the main road into the desert we quickly came across a group of Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks plus a few Desert Larks. The characteristic insect-like call of a Cricket Warbler could be heard from the nearby Acacias and Joop was soon able to get views of this sought after species. A less expected sighting was a group of migrating Great White Pelicans that was circling above us.

Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Sabaluka 19th March 2011

Northern Masked and Village Weavers were both busy building nests and it was possible to get good views of both as they fed on crumbs from the family picnic we were having. Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were also very active in the bushes around where we were resting, as were White-headed Babblers.

Northern Masked Weaver, Sabaluka 19th March 2011

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Sabaluka 19th March 2011

There were not the big numbers of migrants that I had hoped to see, but we spotted a few interesting species. An Isabelline Shrike was the Central Asian subspecies sometimes referred to now as Daurian Shrike. We saw a male Common Rock Thrush and a Eurasian Reed Warbler, which first had us a bit confused as it looked a bit like a large Hippolais warbler. There were a few terns feeding on the river and we had distant views of three Egyptian Plovers.

Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike, Sabaluka 19th March 2011

Sunday 20 March 2011

On the Mundri road WNW of Juba

On 19th March I went 30kms west north-west along the road that eventually goes to Wau via Mundri. There were settlements along much of the route, which went through open bushland. The extent of wood extraction for charcoal was astonishing, though perhaps not surprising given the rate of population growth in Juba. Birds were less plentiful and less diverse than along the north road to Terekeka, but the species mix was rather different, with a range of new species including Common Kestrel (on a rocky outcrop), Brown Parrot, Red-throated Bee-eater, Flappet Lark, Green-backed Eremomela, Emin's Shrike and Northern Puffback. Photos of some of these below, plus ones of Grey Kestrel and Brown-rumped Bunting.

Grey Kestrel

Red-throated Bee-eater

Green-backed Eremomela

Emin's Shrike

Brown-rumped Bunting

There was also a pair of starlings, either Bronze-tailed or Lesser Blue-eared. At least one of them had orange red eyes rather than yellow as per the field guides. Some photos of Bronze-tailed on the web show the same colour.

Bronze-tailed or Lesser Blue-eared Starling

Tuesday 15 March 2011

More birds of the bush

I'm astonished that each trip to apparently similar habitats on the road north from Juba towards Terekeka reveals new species. On 12 March local 'firsts' included Eastern Grey Plantain-eater, Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit, Grey-headed Batis, Singing Cisticola, Bush Petronia and African Thrush. Photos of some of these follow:

Grey-headed Batis

Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit

Bush Petronia

I've seen several Wire-tailed Swallows way out in the arid bushland - the books suggest a strong association with water. This photo shows the wire tail clearly.

Wire-tailed Swallow

The site with the Batis and African Thrush did actually have slightly more larger trees than adjacent bushland, though wood extraction for charcoal is having an impact at least in areas by the road. I met a very friendly Mundari man engaged in this activity.

The rains have started here in Juba, so the trips out in the bush and in the seasonal wetlands will doubtless keeping revealing new species.

And finally...a quiet Tusker (Kenyan lager) sundowner overlooking a channel of the White Nile at the Star hotel in Juba on 13 March was a pleasant way to spend an hour or two, and I saw a Swamp Flycatcher, well outside the range in the Nikolaus bird atlas. No photo as I did not take my camera.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Afternoon tea on the Kit river

Last Sunday 6th March two friends and I went out from Juba across the bridge over the White Nile some 15 kms to the Kit river, a tributary. The river is dry apart from a few pools, but as always around Juba there were plenty of birds in evidence. A pair of Red-necked Falcons just about edged out Northern Carmine Bee-eaters as birds of the day.

Red-necked Falcon

Brown Snake-Eagle was a good bird to see - the species is rated by Nikolaus as uncommon.

Brown Snake-Eagle

I was also able to obtain decent views of Black-winged Red Bishops. The two photos below are followed by two of Northern Red Bishop taken recently (the photo of the male showing signs of breeding plumage was taken at Tuti Island, Khartoum, on 23rd February - the Tuti birds must come into breeding plumage earlier than the Juba birds). The bigger bill, larger size and longer tail of Black-winged Red Bishop can be seen - and when this species flies, the black wings are obvious.

Black-winged Red Bishop

Black-winged Red Bishop

Northern Red Bishop, Juba, February 2011

Male Northern Red Bishop, Khartoum, February 2011

Late afternoon tea under an acacia was most enjoyable, especially when a male Pallid Harrier, en route back to the Asian Steppe, landed in a tree 40 metres away (record shot only, below).

Male Pallid Harrier

Saturday 5 March 2011

First rains, new birds around Juba

It rained heavily, though briefly, on 3 March. Driving along the Terekeka road north of Juba today, I sensed that birds are already moving in response to the impending change in season. I encountered Silverbirds, Chestnut Sparrows, Grey-capped Social-Weavers and Black-winged Red Bishops for the first time whilst Wattled Starlings were more in evidence. Of course, it may simply be that I was looking in a different location to previous trips out. However, groups of weavers were moving through, heading SE (species not known). Steppe Eagles were still present where I saw them recently and this time there was no evidence of birds actually moving through.

Grey-capped Social-Weaver

Wattled Starling

Steppe Eagle

I had a good close view of this Long-crested Eagle.

Long-crested Eagle

Cisticolas are still on the "to do" list, but I'm confident this one is Rattling.

Rattling Cisticola

Friday 4 March 2011

Only a few migrants at Tuti

After my success with Mark last weekend I had hoped there would be more migrants moving through Tuti, but it was still relatively quiet. Passerines included quite a few Lesser whitethroats, a Common Whitethroat and a few Chiffchaffs, plus a couple of Common Stonechats and a Black-eared Wheatear. There were also a few groups of Black Kites around today. I have not been checking the Yellow-billed Kites very regularly and I may have been overlooking them, but these are the first Black Kites I have seen since coming to Sudan.

Black Kite, Tuti 4th March 2011

In a recent post I discussed how swifts have been very under-recorded in Sudan. This was evident again today, with 42 Little Swifts being present. This is my third sighting of this species in 13 visits to Tuti and 42 birds was not even my biggest count! The nearest records mentioned in Nikolaus are from near the border with Eritrea.

Little Swift, Tuti 4th March 2011

Cut-throat Finch, Tuti 4th March 2011

Pin-tailed Whydah (non-breeding), Tuti 4th March 2011