Thursday 30 August 2012

Still high water at Tuti Island

Last Friday (the 24th) I made a quick trip to Tuti Island with Stephen. As with my previous visit, the water levels were high and heavy rains a few days earlier limited access to some parts of the island that we usually visit. There were definite migrants around, such as Common Swifts, plus other birds that were probably migrants such as Great and Little Egrets, a Hoopoe and a Rufous Scrub Robin. I say probably because I have seen all of these species in June and I wonder if some or all are present in small numbers over the summer. As with my last visit, there were a couple of rollers present. Neither had tail streamers, but both had quite a lot of white around the face, which is an Abyssinian feature. On photographs of the first bird the blue flight feathers could clearly be seen, proving it to be an Abyssinian. Just as we found the second bird my camera packed in. As the bird flew away it appeared to have darker flight feathers, but I could really not be sure. European Rollers are supposed to be quite common migrants at Tuti, but I have yet to see one. Indeed I have not seen this species at all since 1979! That ages me.

Beautiful Sunbird, Tuti Island 24th August 2012

White-rumped Seedeater, Tuti Island 24th August 2012

A couple of Speckled Pigeons flew overhead. These were my first on Tuti, though Terry reported them several times here over the summer. There were few opportunities for photographs before my camera packed in, but I tried to get a few shots of the Greater and Lesser Blue-eared Starlings with limited success. I have never had much luck photographing these species, but I will soon publish the few shots I have with some discussion of how to identify this difficult pair.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

My first Tuti Island visit of the autumn

On Monday I made my first visit to Tuti Island since arriving back from my summer vacation. It was good to see that the Lesser and Greater Blue-eared Starlings were back, as they had not yet returned when I left in June. I didn't see any adult Lesser's, but there were several young birds in their distinctive juvenile plumage.

Juvenile Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Tuti 20th August 2012

One bird that I have not previously seen on Tuti is the Abyssinian Roller, though it has been reported here by others. I was therefore pleased to see my first today. Surprisingly, I had also seen one while driving through downtown Khartoum to get to the island this morning.

Abyssinian Roller, Tuti 20th August 2012

There were a few migrants already present including a few waders, a Lesser Grey Shrike, and some Hoopoes, plus many of the usual resident species.

Lesser Grey Shrike, Tuti 20th August 2012

Red-billed Hornbill and African Mourning Dove, Tuti 20th August 2012

Soba Pools still has interesting birds present

After returning to Khartoum from my summer vacation, my first port of call was Soba Pools on August 17th. Prior to the start of the rainy season I had regularly seen species such as Hottentot Teal and African Purple Swamp-hen, which had previously only been reported once each in the country, plus species such as Common Moorhen and Squacco Heron that are only supposed to be winter visitors. I was therefore very keen to know if they were still present. In all cases they were, though in smaller numbers, which could be because birds have moved away or that they are spreading out into the many temporary wetlands that form during the rainy season. There were at least 4 Hottentot Teals, one Swamphen, at least two Moorhens and two Squacco Herons. Also still present were the Little Grebes.

Hottentot Teals, Soba Pools 17th August 2012

African Purple Swamp-hen, Soba Pools 17th August 2012

Common Moorhen, Soba Pools 17th August 2012

Squacco Heron, Soba Pools 17th August 2012

Little Grebe, Soba Pools 17th August 2012

Waders were already present in good numbers with quite a few Black-winged Stilt, Green Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers and Greenshank, plus a Ruff and a peep that was probably a Temmink's Stint.

Wood Sandpiper, Soba Pools 17th August 2012

My wife is often a bit surprised to see me arrive home from Soba Pools with pockets full of large stones. This is easily understood when you realise the number of feral dogs that hang around the area. I have seen groups of up to 10, which is a little unsettling at times when I am on my own. To date they have always moved away when I approach, but I am often snarled and barked at and I want to be prepared for any eventuality.

Feral Dog, Soba Pools 17th August 2012 

Wet season reports from Terry Barry

I recently returned from two months visiting my family in the UK, which is why there have been no blog reports for a while. I was very interested to know what goes on throughout the rainy season, because last year I returned from my vacation in August to find a very different mix of birds to those I had left in June. I was therefore very happy to receive regular reports from Terry Barry about his sightings. I would liked to have posted them immediately, but I only had internet access through my iPad and it would have proven difficult. Many thanks to Terry for these:

June 9th. I went over to Tuti by myself this morning 9/6/2012.  Just kept along the other side of bridge opposite Nile Street. Black-headed Herons and Abdim's storks were back and forth collecting nesting material on Tuti  for their nests on Nile Street - no Grey Herons around. Sacred Ibisis flying overhead a lot too. And a few Great White Egrets still around and  quite a few Whiskered Terns. One Speckled Pigeon by bridge. A White-rumped Seed-eater and a Rufous Scrub-Robin. Later went to check out 3 trees on Nile st where Abdim's are nesting, also a colony of Village Weavers nesting right opposite Grand Holiday Villa with Abdim's nest in same tree. No sign of any starlings yet but from above wet season nesting seems to be well underway. Also quite a lot of Egyptian Plovers around - one appeared to have an injured leg - so I am presuming it was feigning to attract me way from nearby chicks. Only resident Little Bee-eaters around.

June 17th. George and myself went over to Tuti this morning - other side of bridge and then over to fort area. George was happy to see his 5 new species – White-headed Babblers, Black Scrub-Robin, Egyptian Plovers, a group of 4 White-rumped Seedeaters and Sudan Golden Sparrows. Also of note was an Osprey flying near bridge (my first in Khartoum), my first Blue-eared Starling of year near fort, just the one  - we presumed it was Lesser because of size, one presumed Little Tern judging by size and colour in same area, some Whiskered Terns still around and also Great Egrets. Also about 5 Hoopoes on both parts of island (migrating north still?), about 6 Glossy Ibis, 1 Purple Heron, one Rufous Scrub-Robin.  

June 21st. Today midday was down on the exact spot of confluence between Blue/white Nile - two trees on riverbank with lots of Cattle Egrets nesting, one tree also had two pairs of Sacred Ibis nesting among egrets. Quite a few Great Egrets around as well as Whiskered Terns. One Striated Heron, and two small very white terns with black heads flew near - again pretty sure Little Terns (only other option would be Saunder's Tern). No starlings around.

June 24th. Popped over to Tuti - just on other side of bridge near sunset - not too much of note - lots of flocks of Sudan Golden Sparrows, many Ethiopian Swallows, Abdim's storks around and one other - only saw briefly but pretty sure Yellow-billed Stork, White-faced Whistling-Ducks, only a few Great Egrets. One pale tern, with some black on head. No starlings.

June 27th. Just down by Blue Nile sailing club at sunset - two Striated Herons, one African Pied Wagtail (a 'dirty' individual like I have seen before - so pretty sure always the same one - so presuming must be spending all wet season there) - a Sacred Ibis flew over. Lots of Cattle Egrets flying west to nests/roost (seem to be more around in wet season). From top floors of Burj Al Fateh last Tuesday - good views down on Little Egrets and Black-headed Herons sitting on nests in treetops below.

June 29th. Popped over to Tuti - other side of bridge at sunset. Of note - a pair of White-throated Bee-eaters, 5 White-rumped Seed-eaters, one Rufous Bush-Chat, a few young Little Bee-eaters, and the starlings are back - a few groups of 6/7 - think they were mainly Lesser Blue-eared but may have seen a few Greater too - have trouble distinguishing. There were a few Whiskered Terns and one Little Tern, plus the usual Black-headed Herons, Little Egrets and Great Egrets (most now with breeding black bills and one carrying nesting material to trees by Burj where obviously nesting).

July 14th. Latest update on Tuti - there today at sunset just opposite bridge - plenty of starlings around (Lesser and Greater Blue-eared - saw a lot of them yesterday near British embassy too), one Squacco Heron, 2 Striated Herons, the usual Black-headed Herons, Abdim's Storks, and Great Egrets still in impressive black bill/green-blue lores breeding plumage ( I don't recall this type of bill/lores colour change at any time in South America), a big flock of Sudan Golden Sparrows, 1 Pink-backed Pelican.

Latest report on Tuti yesterday 20 July in late afternoon - water levels are now up considerably and beaches now half submerged - I was on the eastern side of the island. Of note: 1 Striated Heron, 2 Grey Herons, 1 Hoopoe (migrant or would it be resident?), 1 Masked Shrike, 6 Speckled Pigeons on beach, a few Senegal Thick-knees, and 2 Long-tailed Nightjars (my first) about 6.00 pm - got close views as 1 startled them and one then settled close by after it flew up.

Today 21 July I went on bus to Wad Medani and walked along banks of Blue Nile for a few hours - Of note: lots of Black-headed Herons nesting in trees on banks of river, 2 Abyssinian Rollers, 2 Yellow-billed Storks, 1 Whiskered Tern, 2 White-throated Bee-eaters, and two firsts for me - a pair of Ruppell's Starlings, and a pair of Cinnamon Weavers (I watched male for about 30 mins - was engaged in courtship display hanging upside down and flapping wings, joined for some of time by female - at times male seemed to be  trying to nestbuild, pity I didn't have camera).