Monday 17 December 2012

Birdwatching near Al Dabaseen Bridge - By Julie Dewilde

On the 30th of November, I went back to the al Dabbaseen bridge, a place I found very interesting when I visited it in may. I went there in the late afternoon. The Nile was a bit higher than last time : the herbaceous islands where i could obsevre ibises, egrets, ducks, were still under water, but yet there were a nice bird activity in the area, especially for waterbirds with a lot of waders, ducks and terns. Some species were the same than in may, and new ones were observed.

There were still a lot of ethiopian swallows and palm swifts flyng above the bridge.

All around the bridge (north and south) I could observe great egrets, a group of grey herons, one black-headed heron, some european spoonbills, black-winged stilt and little egrets and severals groups of black-tailed godwits.

About 100 little stint were counted in the area, and a lot of kittlitz and kentish plovers, lying and resting on the ground : their plumage was incredibly cryptic and we had to walk on them, so they moved, to notice them.

Cryptic plovers

Several common sandpipers, marsh sandpipers, common greenshanks, common ringed plovers, egyptian plovers and ruffs were also observed.
Of special interest for me were one terek sandpiper and a group of  7 pied avocets , both of them were my first ones in khartoum, although I was not here during all the wintertime last year.

Terek Sandpiper

Avocets and other waders

Regarding the terns, there were a few whiskered terns and white-winged tern, some caspian terns as well and a lot of gull-billed terns (more than 200 counted)

As for the ducks, a lot of northern shovellers, some eurasion wigeon and some northern pintail. A lot of ducks could be observed in the middle of the Nile but too far to be identified without a telescope.



I could also observe a couple of great cormorants flying which surprised me as I was more expecting white-breasted cormorants.

Great Cormorants

List of birds observed :

-       spur-winged lapwing : 30
-       great egrets : 2
-       grey herons : 43
-       black-headed heron : 1
-       european spoonbills : 4
-       black-winged stilt : 20
-       little egret : 5
-       black-tailed godwit : 50
-       little stint : 100
-       terek sandpiper : 1
-       common ringed plover : 2
-       kittlitz plover : 50
-       kentish plovers : 15
-       common sand piper : 3
-       marsh sandpipers : 3
-       common greenshank : 20
-       egyptian plovers : 6
-       pied avocet : 7
-       ruffs : 3
-       gull-billed terns : 200
-       whiskered terns : 1
-       white-winged terns : 2
-       caspian terns : 5
-       great cormorants : 2
-       eurasian wigeon : 14
-       northern pintail : 5
-       northern shoveller : 70

The day after, I went back to the same place at the same period of the day, with a group of french ornithologists : Jean-Yves, Pierre, Olivier and Clemence equipped with telescopes.
Besides the species above, we could observe a lanner falcon, common teals, and ospreys.
On the Nile, through the telescope, we could observe a large gull which really looked like a caspian gull, unfortunately too far to be identified  100% and too far to get a picture.
In the telescope again, in the middle of the nile, we could observe a few dark diving ducks identified as ferruginous ducks.

In my opinion, this place looks really interesting to visit on a regular way. It is at this same place, last year, I could observe my first hottentot teals.

Aba Island - By Julie Dewilde

Late report about trip in Aba Island

On the 15th of November, I went with Laurent, to Aba Island north of Kosti, for camping and some birdwatching.
We decided to camp at the north end of the island : GPS : 13°22.677’ N ; 32°36.011’E.
On the Nile side of the road, it was a swampy herbaceous area, where birds were hiding, and on the other side, cultivated areas with some flooded fields. The road was protected by a small embankment.

View of the site

On the way to the north of the island, I observed a collared pratincole flying, a great egret, some squacco herons, a lot of sand martins, and some ethiopian swallows, some cattle egrets and only one abyssinian roller.

While birding in the north, in the early morning, I could observe several (about ten) white-winged terns, a few long-tailed cormorants, some purple herons, one black-headed heron and a lot of squacco herons and of course the usual spur-winged lapwings. Of special interest for water birds were a couple of long-toed lapwings that I have only seen before last january around kosti area as well. I could unfortunately only get thus blurry photo

Long-toed lapwings

There were also big colony of barn swallows chasing insects above the herbaceous swamps, and colony of northern masked weavers together with red bishops.

There were some yellow wagtails and white wagtails and a lot of shrikes : southern grey shrikes, isabelline shrikes and woodchat shrikes, probably also some lesser grey shrikes which may have been confused with southern grey shrikes from far. Some bee-eaters obsered as well : blue-cheeked and little green bee-eaters.

Woodchat Shrike

As for birds of prey, I observed several marsh harriers above the swamps and one black shouldered kite

Black-shouldered Kite

List of birds observed in the north of aba island :
-       white winged terns : ≈ 10
-       long-tailed cormorants : 5
-       great egret :1
-       purple heron : 6
-       black-headed heron : 1
-       cattle egret : 5
-       squacco herons : ≈ 30
-       spur-winged lapwing : 5
-       long-toed lapwing : 2
-       pied kingfisher : 5
-       yellow wagtail : 5
-       white wagtails : 2
-       southern grey shrike : 5
-       woodchat shrikes : 4
-       isabelline shrikes : 6
-       northern masked weaver : ≈ 30
-       red bishop : 5
-       blue-naped mousebird : 4
-       white-browed coucal : 1
-       little green bee-eater : 1
-       blue-vheeked bee-eater : 2
-       marsh harrier : 5
-       black-shouldered kite : 1
-       ethiopian swallows, barn swallows, sand martins, mourning doves, namaqa dove, laughing dove, zitting cisticolas

On the way back to khartoum, we stopped to observe a maya very rich in waterbirds. Unfortunately, they were very far and it was impossible without a telescope to be able to observe all of them.
But among them, we could see : 6 grey herons, a group of about 80 european spoonbills , among them 5 african spoonbills, 15 spur-winged lapwings, 10 sacred ibises, about 30 glossy ibises, 1 great egret, 3 curlews, 5 common grenshanks, 10 common sandpipers, a lot of little stint (more then 100) kentish plovers, and kittlitz plovers, a few caspian plovers, 6 black-winged stilt, a group of more than 200 ruffs, 2 wood sandpipers, 4 marsh sandpipers, about 60 gull-biled terns, 1 ospreys and some barn swallows.
Much more were too far to be identified
This maya was really interesting and i was a bit frustrated not to have a telescope. It worth a stop.



Tuesday 27 November 2012

Info on movements of Steppe Eagles through Sudan

A recent blog on Rob Tovey's excellent site 'Birding for a Lark' has some information on the movement of Steppe Eagles through Sudan. He has reproduced some information from a recent publication in British Birds showing how birds tracked using satellites were found to cross from Arabia over the straits of Hormuz in the Autumn, then head back to the Red Sea coast and then north to cross back via the Sinai in the spring.
Back in February 2011 Mark Mallalieu posted his sightings of Steppe Eagles moving northwards near Juba in South Sudan, which seems to fit this pattern, as they were heading northwest towards the Red Sea coast (Steppe Eagles on the Move).


Friday 16 November 2012

Quieter this week at the Sunt Forest

I visited the Sunt Forest again this week, with Terry and Chris Wood. There were still plenty of birds about, but certainly fewer that last week. This was particularly the case on the shallow pools beside the road near where you enter, where numbers were much less. One explanation might be that as the White Nile falls it exposes more mud, providing more suitable habitat for waders to feed, though there may be other explanations. The only bird of note on the pools was a Common Redshank; an uncommon species inland in Sudan and not seen the previous week. Other species were similar to last week, though generally in smaller numbers, though 28 Senegal Thick-knees was probably slightly more than on our last visit.

Black-tailed Godwits, Spotted Redshanks, Gargany, Spur-winged Lapwings and 
Yellow Wagtail, Sunt Forest

The forest was drier, allowing us to approach the birds on the flooded fields on the far side more easily. The water now reached up to the edge of the forest allowing us to approach quite closely while still partly concealed. We had seen a few Spotted Redshanks here last week, but this time there was a group of about 30 birds feeding together in a close flock. There were also about 150 Black-tailed Godwits, a few other wader species, and about 50 ducks, including Eurasian Wigeon, Gargany, Common Teal, Northern Pintail, and Northern Shoveler.  Once again, there was little on offer in the forest, though we did have our first sighting here of a couple of African Grey Hornbills. Another notable sighting was of a couple of African Skimmers that flew past along the edge of the river.

Sunday 11 November 2012

First visit of the season to the Sunt Forest

The Sunt Forest is flooded throughout the wet season, so when Terry and I visited on Friday morning we did not know what to expect. As soon as we arrived it was apparent that the water had receded sufficiently for us to do some birding. The water still covered the edges of the forest and it was very muddy in places, but it was possible to enter and walk through much of it, and over the next week or two it will become easier. However, the forest itself is not really the main attraction, but rather the flooded scrapes you pass as you approach the forest. These are very good for a variety of waders, herons and ducks, but they will eventually dry out completely as the Nile falls further. We recorded 16 wader species, with the most interesting being a Broad-billed Sandpiper, which is the first I have seen in Sudan, and a species described as Rare by Nikolaus. There were three Spotted Redshanks, which is another species that is not seen so commonly here. There were also quite a few snipe that we spent a lot of time checking thoroughly, though they all appeared to be Common Snipe.

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Sunt Forest 9th November 2012

Common Snipe, Sunt Forest 9th November 2012

Little Stint, Sunt Forest 9th November 2012

Marsh Sandpiper, Sunt Forest 9th November 2012

This is one of the few sites I know where it is possible to get decent views of ducks. There were several species present, including Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Northern Pintail, Gargany, and Northern Shoveler, but nothing unexpected.

Common Teal, Sunt Forest 9th November 2012

As always, birds called constantly from the trees within the forest, but were hard to locate, and, as always, once located they were mostly Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats. I know that many interesting species have been recorded in the forest, but I have yet to see much there myself.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Red Sea trip report - by Chris Wood

Red Sea Trip Report
Chris Wood

Over the Eid holiday we went scuba diving on a boat out of Port Sudan. We drove down and back rather than fly and this gave some interesting bird observations but did not allow for any protracted birding.

We stopped for lunch at a dry wadi with culvert under road (lat:17.759930o Long:34.327850o) about 40 km west of Atbara. There were a few scattered thorn bushes on the banks of the wadi and some drying, but still green, short grass. Found Two White Wagtails and a Southern Grey Shrike with a very pale bill, taken to be L.m palldirostris. Interestingly there were a number of dead birds lying about, possibly as many as 10. Most were relatively whole but with missing heads. There was also one intact, but dead, Red-backed Shrike. These birds may have made it to this spot exhausted after crossing the desert, attracted by the bushes and the grassy patch, but found there was both insufficient food or water and simply died there. I suspect that the missing heads may have been caused by rats or other rodents scavenging on the dead birds.

At Haiya we saw the usual Fan-tailed Ravens, Black Kites and a Pied Crow. Also saw 2 Egyptian vultures there on the drive down; on the drive back we saw 4 Egyptian Vultures, including one juvenile. These numbers were down from last year when we saw 14 of these vultures in the vicinity of Haiya.

West of Sinkat the road splits (lat:18.892514o long:36.863329o)into two one-way roads through the mountains. The road runs through a steep-sided rocky gorge most of the way with little in the way of vegetation.  Driving through late in the afternoon we recorded two 4-banded Sandgrouse and 3 White-crowned (Black) Wheatear.

The next day we joined the boat and set off for 4 days at sea. Throughout the trip we had various northern migrants landing on the boat often looking to be in a state of exhaustion and presumably many of these would not have made it to land. One Barn Swallow that landed on the boat at dusk died during the night. On several occasions I saw barn swallows drinking from the sea – it was very calm for most of the voyage.

Common Redstart, Red Sea October 2012

One sighting of especial interest was an owl! I had just come back from a dive when we all saw an owl circling the boat as we were setting off to the next dive site. I did not have a camera on deck but had a good sight of the owl as it circled the boat and then followed in our wake about 50 metres back from us. This was about 3.00pm. The crew said they regularly see owls at sea where they (the owls) catch fish. They said that the owls “live on the lighthouses”. It was difficult to be certain of an ID without a photograph, but the size, colour suggested that it was a Pel’s  Fishing Owl.  Nikolaus does record the Pel’s as “rare, possibly overlooked. It has also been recorded elsewhere in mangrove swamps.  It has been suggested to me that this could have been a Short-eared Owl, but, although this makes more sense, they have been recorded crossing the Red Sea and settling on ships in the Red Sea, the colour and size seemed wrong. But possibly this was an artifact of the bright afternoon light reflected back off the sea. Any other suggestions from readers would be welcome.

On the return drive back we stopped overnight at the hotel at Erkowit. With all the watering in the garden it was a little green oasis that attracted a small number of birds. We recorded  Crested Larks, Blackcaps, White wagtails and Red-throated Pipits.  In the lookout point at the end of the dirt road we recorded 2 more White-crowned Wheatears.

Bird List for the trip.

Fan-tailed raven
Black Kite
Egyptian Vulture
Pied crow
Southern Grey Shrike
Red-backed Shrike (dead)
White Wagtails – both on shore and at sea on the boat
4-banded Sandgrouse
White-crowned (Black) Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Crested Lark
Red-throated Pipit
Gull-billed Tern (just outside Khartoum)
Cattle Egret

On the boat:

Barn swallow
Namaqua Dove
Caspian Tern
Bridled tern
Swift Tern
White-cheeked Tern
White-eyed Gull
Willow Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Sedge Warbler
European Marsh Warbler
Common Redstart
Striated Heron (in port)
Owl unidentified – possibly Short-eared, possibly Pel’s