Friday 18 May 2012

Jebel Aulia in May

The rains have yet to arrive in Khartoum, currently lying a little to the south. Yellow-billed Stork is a rainy season visitor to the north and Terry, Stephen and I saw our first of the season today, with 5 individuals present which were all immatures. There were big numbers of African Openbills, while other large waterbirds included a group of about 30 Great White Pelicans which took off into the thermals in the late afternoon, presumably to head north. About 10 Pink-backed Pelicans were scattered around the reservoir and showed no signs of being on migration. There were quite a few Grey Herons, several Great White Egrets and a single Little Egret.

Yellow-billed Storks, Jebel Aulia 18th May 2012

African Openbills, Jebel Aulia 18th May 2012

Pink-backed Pelican, Jebel Aulia 18th May 2012

Another herald of the imminent arrival of the rainy season was the sighting of three Abyssinian Rollers, which were very vocal and quite approachable. For many species the breeding season was well under way with lots of displaying and chasing by Nile Valley and Beautiful Sunbirds. A male Little Weaver was constructing a nest, with the female nearby. It was surprising to see only a single nest, as most weavers nest colonially. Elsewhere we saw another pair, so it is not because they were the only ones in the area. Most surprising, however, were the Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. There were quite a few flying around all day, which we assumed were migrants. But just as we were about to leave we saw one enter a hole in a bank, then leave a few minutes later followed by a second bird. This suggests they might be breeding. Nikolaus describes the status in Sudan as unknown, then refers to some old records of breeding birds from the 1850s near Dongola. Some species (such as Sand Martins) roost in holes during migration, but I do not know whether or not bee-eaters do this. I would like to check on these birds again to see if they are in fact breeding.

Abyssinian Roller, Jebel Aulia 18th May 2012

Little Weaver building nest, Jebel Aulia 18th May 2012

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater exiting hole, Jebel Aulia 18th May 2012

There were few migrants around, other than a couple of Ruffs that were moulting into breeding plumage, some Sand Martins, a few terns, and a Spotted Flycatcher.

Ruff, Jebel Aulia 18th May 2012

KICS stables and the pools by Soba Hospital

I made a brief trip last Sunday to the KICS riding stables, followed by a visit to the pools behind Soba Hospital (I previously referred to the site as being near to Capo Dairy, before discovering that the main Capo Dairy is at another location). Things have been quiet on the Blue Nile for my last few visits, though there was still a White-winged Tern and a Whiskered Tern present, plus a few hirundines and a Great White Egret. A Little Egret may have been a migrant or resident bird. A Black-headed Heron was a recent arrival, as they are only found this far north during the rainy season.

Little Egret, KICS stables 11th May 2012

White-faced Whistling Ducks, KICS stables 11th May 2012

There were still at least 14 Hottentot Teals at the pools behind Soba Hospital, plus at least 3 African Purple Swamphens. When I first saw the Hottentot Teals here it was a big surprise, as there was only one previous record for Sudan. However, Julie Dewilde recently observed some on the Nile (see earlier post) which makes we wonder if they are commoner nowadays, or have previously been overlooked.

Hottentot Teal, Soba Pools 11th May 2012

Long-tailed Nightjar, Soba Pools 11th May 2012

Thursday 17 May 2012

Tuti Island visit

Things were quiet at Tuti last Friday when I visited again with Terry and Stephen. Bird of the day was a European Honey-Buzzard which was flying around at the northern end of the island.

European Honey-Buzzard, Tuti Island 11th May 2012

There was little evidence of birds moving up the Nile other than a few terns and a couple of groups of Black-crowned Night-Herons. A flock of Sacred Ibises flew over, but it wasn't clear if they were migrating or just making a local movement. They only occur this north during the rainy season and I have only been seeing them in recent weeks.

Black-crowned Night-Herons, Tuti Island 11th May 2012

Sacred Ibises, Tuti Island 11th May 2012

Al Dabbaseen Bridge - By Julie Dewilde

Friday, 11th of May

Location : 15°30’53 N,  32°27’50 E ; near the Al Dabbaseen bridge still under construction

I went to the Al Dabbaseen bridge, with Laurent. It was a very interesting place, quiet, with few human disturbance. We parked near the bridge. A lot of swallows were flying, among them ethiopian swallows, plain martins and a lot of african palm swift as well.

Ethiopian Swallow

From the bridge, we could see that the Nils was shallow and some tiny herbaceous islands where great egrets, little egrets and grey herons were gathered. A couple of african jacanas was flying and chased by spur-winged lapwings. A couple of senegal thick-knee was walking along the shore. Some terns were also flying and fishing : white-winged terns, whiskered terns and some gull-billed terns.
We walked along the Nile to the south, and saw 4 common squacco herons, some kittlitz plovers and some egyptian plovers. We arrived on a nice place with a lot of small herbaceous islands.

Herons and Egrets

Whiskered Tern

Islands in the Nile

We could observe 7 glossy ibises and 4 white-faced whistling-duck, a lot of long-tailed cormorants flying, great egrets and little egrets, grey herons, black-winged stilts, kittlitz plovers and one common ringed plover. Besides this, we could observe pied kingfisher, european bee-eater, and a couple of  blue-cheeked bee-eaters.

Glossy Ibises and White-faced Whistling Ducks

Little Egrets

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Far away, we could see a big flock of birds, but too far to identify the ducks/birds. Fortunately (or unfortunately) a car drove and scared the flock who flew in our direction. Among them, about 15 fulvous whistling-duck, 15 little egrets, 35 long-tailed cormorants and three hottentot teals which landed in front of us which were my first ones in Sudan.

Fulvous Whistling Ducks

Hottentot Teals

List of birds observed :
- cattle egrets : 20
- great egrets : 19
- little egrets : 21
- spur-winged lapwings : 20
- grey herons : 16
- kittlitz plovers : 9
- gull-billed terns : 7
- white-winged tern : 15
- whiskered terns : 20
- senegal thick-knee : 2
- african jacana : 2
- black-winged stilt : 3
- common squacco herons : 4
- long-tailed cormorants : 42
- white-faced whistling duck : 7
- fulvous whistling duck : 18
- glossy ibises : 7
- egyptian plover : 3
- common ringed plover : 1
- Hottentot teal : 3
- Pied kingfisher : 1
- blue-cheeked bee-eaters : 2
- european bee-eaters : 2
- ethiopian swallows
- plain martin
- palm swifts

6th Cataract, Sabaloka - by Julie Dewilde

I was recently contacted by Julie Dewilde, a birder living in Khartoum. She has sent me a couple of trip reports, the first of which is published below. Tom J.

Saturday 5th May at the 6th cataract, Sabaloka

This weekend I visited the sabaloka site with Laurent. We camped on the island and I could go for some birdwatching early in the morning.
On the beach side of the island, I could observe a few waders : little stints and temminck’s stilt, kittlitz plover, common sandpiper, egyptian plovers, spur-winged lapwings and  few great egrets. A pied kingfisher was fishing, some whiskered terns were flying away and a white wagtail just landed in front of me.
Common Sandpiper

Pied Kingfisher

Then I decided to visit the island. I could observe lot of goldens sparrows, Northern masked weavers and Village weavers, some warblers,  a small group of white-headed babblers, the usual doves and bulbuls, several black scrub robins, one blue-naped mouse-bird, one red-billed hornbill, some african silverbills, one northern red-bishop, several African pied wagtails and european bee-eaters, little bee-eaters, and green bee-eaters.

White-headed Babbler

Black Scrub-Robins

Red-billed Hornbill

Northern Red Bishop
African Pied Wagtail

When I arrived to the cataract, there were a lot of swallows flying, mostly ethiopina swallows and plain martins, whiskered and white-winged terns. Small groups of cattle egrets, little egrets, grey herons, african spoonbills and european spoonbills were migrating to the North. A big group of about 300 white storks were also flying to the north.

African Spoonbill

Friday 4 May 2012

Tuti Island with Stephen, Terry and Simon

I visited Tuti Island this morning with Stephen, Terry and Simon. It was fairly quiet, with few migrants other than some groups flying over, some of which had passed over our heads before we had a chance to identify them. Notable was a group of 72 Glossy Ibises heading north up the White Nile. There were also a couple of Golden Orioles present, which were my first of the spring. This Black-shouldered Kite was my first at Tuti.

Glossy Ibises, Tuti Island 4th May 2012

Black-shouldered Kite, Tuti Island 4th May 2012

A group of swallows on some exposed wires allowed some unusually close views (for Tuti). This Plain Martin seemed to lack the brown throat of some birds and we discussed whether it was in fact one. A later check of photos on the internet showed that they often lack the dark throat. I have not previously seen Ethiopian and Barn Swallows perched together and I was immediately struck by the size difference between the two. The books mention a major difference in length, but I had assumed this was just due to the tail streamers. The photo below shows how marked the difference really is.

Plain Martin and Barn Swallow, Tuti Island 4th May 2012

Ethiopian and Barn Swallows, Tuti Island 4th May 2012

Back at the start of February I discussed how the Village Weavers were constructing nests. As we passed the colony we discussed how they might have eggs or chicks by now, but we were then surprised to see a bird that had clearly just started building. I assume they must have quite a protracted nesting season.

Village Weaver building nest, Tuti Island 4th May 2012