Sudan, Sahel zone - grassland & scrub, R. Atbara, E. Sudan, 15ºN Annual rainfall 400 mm
R. Atbara gorge at Khashm’el Girba - looking downstream to the north (winter)
Nearby grassland and nomad caravan after the rains (September 1958)
The Atbara river is an important route for Palaearctic migrants in autumn; significant southerly movements up-river towards nearby Ethiopia were observed in early mornings and evenings. Small flocks of Purple Heron, White-winged Black Tern, [Gull-billed Tern], Alpine and Common Swifts and European Roller; also, a few Grey Heron, European Swallow and Sand Martin. Migrants feeding/resting in this area included Montagu’s and Marsh Harriers, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, European Hoopoe (plentiful); in scrub were Masked Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Thrush-Nightingale, Spotted Flycatcher, Olivaceous and Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff and Lesser Whitethroat.
Resident and migratory African species near this gorge or in acacia bush habitats comprised: Cattle Egret, Abdim’s and Marabou Storks, Hooded, Rűppell’s and Lappet-faced Vultures, Fish Eagle (a territorial pair), Tawny Eagle, Black Kite, Chanting Goshawk, Red-billed and Grey Hornbills, Spurwing and Blackhead Plovers, Red-eyed (Guinea) Pigeon, Long-tailed Dove, Black-billed Wood Dove, White-browed Coucal, Blue-naped Mousebird, Common Pearl-spot Barbet, Little Bee-eater, Abyssinian Roller, Ethiopian Swallow, Shining Sunbird, Rosy Fire-Finch and Rock Bunting. Rainy season species included Bateleur Eagle, White-fronted and Carmine Bee-eaters, and Long-tailed Nightjar (on the road after dark), Pied Crow, Grey and Golden Sparrows, Northern Masked Weaver, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Pin-tailed Whydah and Sudan Paradise Whydah. In the district, Red-faced Quelea bred in a huge colony in dense Acacia mellifera scrub (see next section).
Footnote: In the 1960s the river was dammed here to provide gravity-fed water to a huge new irrigation scheme covering c.2,000 km² (200,000 ha) of the eastern Butana plain (from top left of picture). This scheme, like those along the Blue Nile, would be expected to attract many migrants.