Saturday 29 October 2011

The Sunt Forest

I visited the Sunt forest again yesterday with Terry Barry and Stephen Blight. The water levels still restricted our movements a bit, but we could tell that it will soon be easy to walk around the forest edge without getting muddy. The main pool near the road also had quite a few ducks, with Northern Shoveler, Gargany, Eurasian Teal and Northern Pintail. All kept their distance, however, making them impossible to photograph. The mudflats are also starting to extend further, offering plenty to attract waders. There were a similar spread to last week, including: Spur-winged Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, and Common Sandpiper. There were a selection of herons around, plus a Eurasian Spoonbill, a Yellow-billed Stork and a couple of Pelicans that were probably Pink-backed. Unfortunately, we didn't have a telescope with us, which is probably quite important at this site.

Black-tailed Godwits, Little Stints, a Curlew Sandpiper and a 
Spur-winged Lapwing, Sunt Forest 28th October 2011

Little Stints, Sunt Forest 28th October 2011

Great Egret, Sunt Forest 28th October 2011

Pied Kingfisher, Sunt Forest 28th October 2011

We only spent a short while in the forest; there were birds calling from all around us, but it was hard to get decent views. Most common were Lesser Whitethroats and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, though there was also a Common Redstart, a Spotted Flycatcher, plus a Pied Wheatear and a couple of Hoopoes at the forest edge. In the more open areas there were probably about 40 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters hawking for insects. A Lanner Falcon also passed through a couple of times and made one unsuccessful dive at a bird.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Sunt Forest 28th October 2011

Lanner Falcon, Sunt Forest 28th October 2011

Friday 21 October 2011

An unexpected Australian visitor to Tuti and a brief visit to the Sunt

I visited Tuti Island this morning with Chris Wood. Without doubt the biggest surprise of the day was the dove shown below. It was clearly very different to anything we had seen before, but was most like a Namaqua Dove. It had a similar size and shape and flew in a similar manner. Also in flight it showed rufous patches in the wing, though in all other respects the colouration was completely different. The large amount of white in the tail made it look like a leucistic individual, though the rest of the plumage didn't quite give the same impression. On returning home and checking photos I realised that the bold Red orbital was not found on Namaqua Dove, suggesting it was either some domesticated version or another species entirely. I also considered the possibility of it being a Namaqua Dove hybrid with some other species. I checked through some field guides but didn't spot it, so put the photos on Birdforum to get some help. The responses soon made it clear that it was a Diamond Dove, which is an Australian species. In the wild they have browner backs, but they are a common cage bird and a quick check through the internet revealed many domestic individuals like the one below. Clearly it had escaped from somewhere in the city.
Escaped Diamond Dove, Tuti 21st October 2011

More expected was this Black-billed Wood-Dove. They are reasonably common on Tuti, but tend to be quite flighty and tend to be found in more wooded areas, so I have not had a chance to photograph one before. This one was feeding out in an open field, so it was easier to take a distant shot, though it flew as I tried to get closer. I wonder how often they are seen in Canberra.

Black-billed Wood-Dove, Tuti 21st October 2011

There were a few new migrants in today, with my first Blackcap of the Autumn and a few other warblers around. There was a good selection of Wheatears, with Northern, Black-eared, Isabelline, and Pied, the latter being my first sighting on Tuti.  Another first for me on Tuti was the Lesser Kestrel shown below. A single juvenile Red-rumped Swallow allowed us to approach quite close and take some photos.

Lesser Kestrel, Tuti 21st October 2011

Red-rumped Swallow, Tuti 21st October 2011

After Tuti we headed down to the Sunt Forest. This is a well-known area of Acacia that is protected as a national forest. For much of the year it is flooded, which probably explains how it has survived so long so close to the city centre. This was my first visit to the area, though Chris has been many times mainly to look for shorebirds on the mudflats. Chris tells me that the water levels have been falling rapidly, but that there is still a long way to go. We only made a short visit to check out the status of the exposed mud. There were good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, lots of Eurasian Spoonbills, some Yellow-billed Storks, some Pink-backed Pelicans, some Gull-billed Terns, and a variety of herons. There were lots of Spur-winged Plovers and a few other waders such as Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, and Black-winged Stilt. Chris tells me the numbers go up rapidly once more mud is exposed and we look forward to some more visits.

Friday 14 October 2011

Red-necked Falcon at Tuti today

I was at Tuti again this morning and there were some good birds around, even though there were few migrants. The best sighting was definitely a Red-necked Falcon; last year one had flown right past me in almost exactly the same place, but had been too quick for me to raise my binoculars and identify it with certainty. Today's bird also flew past and quickly out of view, but I went straight after it and tracked it down to where it was sitting in an open tree beside the White Nile. Luckily it let me get quite close for some photos.

Red-necked Falcon, Tuti Island 14th October 2011

Another species that I have not seen previously in Sudan is the Barred Warbler. Today I saw my first, skulking, as they often do, in the low bushes beside the White Nile. Eventually it came out and showed well enough to get some photos. Other migrants were scarce, with a similar selection to previous visits, but in much lower numbers.

Barred Warbler, Tuti Island 14th October 2011

Since arriving in Sudan I have been struggling to identify the migrant Black Kites from amongst the many migrating Yellow-billed Kites that move down the Nile from Egypt. An adult Yellow-billed Kite is easy, because of its all yellow bill, but juveniles have dark bills like Black Kites. Today I had the chance to photograph two birds in quick succession that seem to show the features to separate them apart. The first bird is what I believe to be a Juvenile Black Kite and the second is an adult Yellow-billed Kite. The Black Kite has slightly broader wings, a much shallower tail fork (though the tail is admittedly very worn), it has 6 distinct primaries (while the Yellow-billed has 5, plus a blunter 6th primary), plus the overall colouration of the Black Kite is duller than the Yellow-billed. I would welcome comments, as I am still not confident that my eye is properly tuned in to separating the two.

Black Kite, Tuti Island 14th October 2011

Yellow-billed Kite, Tuti Island 14th October 2011

Here are a few other shots from today's trip. White-headed Babblers are everywhere on Tuti, yet they are an almost completely unknown species and there are very few photos available on the internet. This male  Village Weaver was moulting out of its breeding plumage, but was still an attractive bird and very vocal. There were quite a few Red-billed Hornbills feeding in the fields today.

White-headed Babbler, Tuti Island 14th October 2011

Village Weaver, Tuti Island 14th October 2011

Red-billed Hornbill, Tuti Island 14th October 2011

Friday 7 October 2011

Quieter today at Tuti

I met up with Terry Barry today who is a birder who has recently arrived in Khartoum, and we spent the morning at Tuti. The morning started well and within a few minutes of leaving the car we had seen a Lanner Falcon, a Purple Heron, a Black-crowned Night-Heron, a group of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a couple of Yellow-breasted Barbets. The barbets were the first I have ever seen on the island; neither were very bright individuals and I assume that they were both immatures.

Yellow-breasted Barbet, Tuti 7th October 2011

However, as we moved up the island it was evident that there were fewer migrants than in previous weeks. There were still lots of European Bee-eaters, a few shrikes, a few Whinchats, a couple of Spotted Flycatchers, only a very few warblers, and some hirundines. There were more Yellow Wagtails this week, the first Tree Pipits I have seen this year and a Tawny Pipit.

European Bee-eater, Tuti 7th October 2011