Friday 18 November 2011

Jebel Aulia with Stephen

I visited Jebel Aulia this morning with Stephen Blight. The water levels were quite high, but there were still some waders along the sandy shores. There were several Kentish Plovers, which were my first in Sudan. There were also a number of other species, such as: Ringed Plover, Kittlitz's Plover, Spur-winged lapwing, Ruff, Little Stint, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone. As the water levels fall there may be more exposed mud, and this should attract more birds and a wider range of species.

Kentish Plover, Jebel Aulia 18th November 2011

Other water birds included several heron species, some Eurasian Spoonbills flew over, a group of ducks flew across the lake, there were several Lesser Black-backed Gulls and lots of terns. These were especially common just below the dam, with lots of Whiskered and White-winged Black Terns, plus a few Caspian and Gull-billed terns.

Gull-billed Terns with Grey Heron, Jebel Aulia 18th November 2011

Pintails, Shovelors and Gargany, Jebel Aulia 18th November 2011

There were a few wintering landbirds present including, surprisingly, my first Chiffchaffs of the year.  There were lots of Lesser Whitethroats and Desert Wheatears. More interesting sightings included Wryneck, Barred Warbler and Isabelline Shrike. I have now seen Isabelline Shrikes on many occasions in Sudan, including at Jebel Aulia. I was surprised to hear that they are quite a rare bird in Egypt, making me wonder how they get here. This presumably means they are not moving down the Nile, but possibly coming across from the direction of the Red Sea.

Barred Warbler, Jebel Aulia 18th November 2011

Wryneck, Jebel Aulia 18th November 2011

Isabelline Shrike, Jebel Aulia 18th November 2011

Monday 14 November 2011

Tuti Island - By Chris Wood

Walked the complete circumference on Tuti Island starting at 0730 and finishing at 1230. Weather fine and cool by Khartoum standards with no significant wind.

Birding quite good with small numbers of waders and some interesting other birds. It was good to find 5 Senegal Thick-knees about 2/3 of the way up on the north western side. The only waders in any number were approximately 50 Black-winged Stilt standing in shallow water on a sandbank in the middle of the river. Also saw my first, for Tuti Island, Blackcap.

Pushing my way through a dense grove of lime trees, almost on my hands and knees, I disturbed 3 Long-tailed Nightjars, a new bird for me. I did manage one photo in deep shadow under the trees. I have extensively “photoshopped”  it to try and bring out the bird.

It  was good to see an Egyptian Plover again on the island. Looking back at my records from last year I recorded 12 on 17th October 2010 and 6 on the 2nd November. This year I have only seen 1 in September and now 1 in November. They do move with changing sandbar exposure but it does seem a bit strange that they have not been here in any number this season.

I also saw one Yellow-billed Egret. Khartoum seems to be just about the northern limit of its range according to Nikolaus. There is a heronry in the trees outside the Corinthian hotel (ex Burj al-Fateh) and I have occasionally seen one or two coming in there in the evening.

Brown-throated Martins seem to have begun excavating nesting holes in the sand cliffs since I was last on the island. In some place they appear quite far advanced. The Stonechat seen was probably a Siberian stonechat, but not completely certain on that.

Grey Heron
Black-headed Heron
Yellow-billed Egret
Little Egret
Cattle Egret
Sacred Ibis
Black Kite
Senegal Thick-knee
Egyptian Plover
Common Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Spur-winged Lapwing
Black-winged Stilt
Common Sandpiper
Little Stint
Temminck’s Stint
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
White-winged Tern
African Mourning Dove
Laughing Dove
Black-billed Wood Dove
Namaqua Dove
White-browed Coucal
Long-tailed Nightjar
African Palm Swift
Blue-naped Mousebird
Eurasian Hoopoe
Pied Kingfisher
Little Bee-eater
N. Red-billed Hornbill
Crested Lark
Brown-throated Martin
White Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
White-headed Babbler
Common Bulbul
N. Wheatear
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
Black Scrub Robin
Common Stonechat
Olivaceous Warbler
Willow warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Tawny-flanked Prinia
Red-backed Shrike
Greater Blue-eared Starling
Beautiful Sunbird
Cut-throat Finch
N. Masked weaver
N. Red Bishop
Red-billed Firefinch
African Silverbill
Village Indigobird
Pin-tailed Whydah

Long-tailed Nightjar. Tuti Island 13/11/2011. Chris wood

Saturday 12 November 2011

Red Sea - by Chris Wood

Over Eid I went  diving in the Red Sea. During the trip the wind was blowing strongly from the north all the time we were at sea,  varying over an estimated 30 – 50 km/h range. This made birding difficult and the use of telescope was impossible, even binoculars were problematic.

However, we did visit Sanganeb lighthouse (19o 43.35N 37o 26.6E) for an hour from approximately 11 am to midday. The lighthouse is approximately 19 km from the nearest coast. The base of the lighthouse is quite small, the open area (excluding the lighthouse tower) being about 20 x 15 metres with a long wooden jetty stretching out to deeper water.

There were a number of migrating birds on the island as well as on Osprey feeding on a fish at the end of the jetty, and a Green-backed heron feeding on the exposed reef. Around the base of the lighthouse I found 1 dead European Bee-eater, and living, 1 Red-backed Shrike, 1 Southern Grey Shrike, 2 White Wagtails, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 European Turtle Dove, 1 Namaqua Dove and  2 House Sparrows which probably live there. In addition a Chiff-chaff flew into the bridge of the boat we were on where I caught it for id before releasing it. The Willow Warbler, 2 doves and the Chiff-chaff all looked very stressed and probably would not have survived. There is no standing water and very little food on the lighthouse property and as migrating birds need water immediately on making landfall their chances of survival were small. The wagtails and shrikes may have been able to garner enough food in the form of flies and small insects.

At sea the wind and the accompanying 2 metre swell made birding difficult, but birds seen were both Sooty and White-eyed Gulls which took a while to distinguish from each other, Gull-billed Terns, Sandwich Terns, and what were probably Saunder’s Terns. The crew of the boat reported that pelicans commonly occur in Port Sudan harbour and had been the day before we arrived, but they were not there when we were. Probably Great White but no positive id.

Of interest on the drive from Khartoum to Port Sudan was the number of Egyptian Vultures in the vicinity of Haiya. I counted 16 in the few kilometres before and after the town.

White-eyed Gull, Red Sea November 2011

Sooty Gull, Red Sea November 2011

Friday 11 November 2011

Few birds at Meroe

On Tuesday and Wednesday I was camping at the Meroe pyramids with my family and some friends. There was little time for birding, but I had a couple of short walks to look for birds. I spent a bit more time around the jebels, as I had not birded them properly before. As always, it was very quiet in the area and the only birds seen were Desert Wheatear, Nile Valley Sunbird (that seemed to be displaying), Brown-necked Raven, Desert Lark, and Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark.

Male Nile Valley Sunbird, Meroe 9th November 2011

Female Nile Valley Sunbird, Meroe 9th November 2011

Desert Wheatear, Meroe 9th November 2011

On the drive up there was a Steppe Eagle not far north of Khartoum, and on the drive back there were a couple of Egyptian Vultures just north of the turn off to Sabaloka.

Sunday 6 November 2011

A brief family visit to Tuti

I made a brief visit to Tuti yesterday with my family and some friends. There was little opportunity for serious birding, but I was still able to see a few things. There were a few wheatears about, though the only one seen well enough to identify was this Desert Wheatear which is the first I have seen on the island.

Desert Wheatear, Tuti Island 5th November 2011

A few other migrants were around, including a Eurasian Hoopoe, a Common Redstart, a Tree Pipit, some Yellow Wagtails, a Lesser whitethroat plus a few other unidentified warblers. An Osprey was my first sighting on the island, with the bird heading north down the river suggesting it is wintering here rather than on passage.