Sunday 4 March 2012

Jebel Aulia - By Chris Wood

On Friday 2nd March we went to Jebel Aulia lake on the west bank of the White Nile and stayed overnight at a lodge on the banks of the dam (Lat: 15.006318. Long: 32.440553), coming back at midday on Saturday.  The wind was fairly strong when we arrived, and the sky hazy but otherwise ok. This was my first visit to the site and I had no idea what to expect so I had brought my ringing equipment just in case.

Inland there was little vegetation, some scattered short scrub and the rest, sand. The shoreline was sandy to gravelly without any emergent vegetation and not ideal for concentrations of waterbirds. There is a large island opposite the site and this looked well greened and could be a good place for the future.

Nevertheless there were a good variety of species along the shore, although only in ones or 2s. The exception being the Kittlitz’s Plovers which were common, paired up and coming into breeding plumage. Also a couple of Kentish Plovers a little to the south of the lodge at a small fishing harbour where I also found a Common Redshank.  The lake would seem to support good fish stocks judging by the number of Pied Kingfishers, at least 8 within 100 metres either side of the lodge, and the numbers of terns patrolling the shallower waters.

The wind dropped about 1700 hours and I decided to put up a couple of nets, 3 in the end, set at right angles to the shore and a couple of metres into the water. I was not expecting much, and I wasn’t disappointed, but having brought the equipment I thought, why not?  About 8pm I caught and ringed a Kittlitz’s and that was all for the night. I didn’t feel the numbers justified staying awake all night so I furled the nets and went to bed around 10.30 planning to open them at 4.30am.

At 3.30 am a very strong wind arose and I decided not to open the nets. Later, around 7 the wind dropped and I opened the nets but by 9 am the wind had strengthened and we were in a full blown dust storm. I took down the nets at 8.30am as it was building up and during the short time that the nets were open I caught 2 Pied Kingfishers which were blown off their perches on the ringing poles by the freshening wind, and fell into the nets! Virtually the only birds flying after that were the Barn Swallows, still struggling northward and flying low to the ground.

I was concentrating on waterbirds as usual, and most other birds were seen in the garden of the lodge. There were a couple of wheatears, a Black-eared and what I took to be an Isabelline. Paler than what I expect from a Northern, with a larger black tail tip and what looked like a prominent alula. There was also a Eurasian Marsh Harrier along the shore to the south and an Osprey flew slowly overhead on the first afternoon. At one stage I could hear in the distance something that sounded like a Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, but could not be certain.

An interesting place, and a small harbour to the south with a bit of mud that might make a reasonable ringing site between October and end of March. I was also told of another site several kilometres (two villages) to the south where there are “ducks and things”. Another expedition called for?

Bird List.

Reed Cormorant
White-breasted Cormorant
Grey Heron
Black-headed Heron
Yellow-billed Egret
Little Egret
Cattle Egret
Eurasian Marsh Harrier
Egyptian Plover
Kittlitz’s Plover
Kentish Plover
Ringed Plover
Spur-winged Lapwing
Black-winged Stilt
Common Redshank
Common Sandpiper
Little Stint
Temminck’s Stint
Gull-billed Tern
Whiskered Tern
White-winged Tern
African Mourning Dove
Namaqua Dove
Eurasian Hoopoe
Pied Kingfisher
Brown-throated Martin
Barn Swallow
White Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
Common Bulbul
Black-eared Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Olivaceous Warbler
Red-backed Shrike

By Chris Wood

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