Sunday, 1 April 2012

It's April & I am getting anxious!

It is the 1st of April of the fools day fame. It has been 91 days since I saw & heard Chris Martin count down the clock in 2012. I have done a lot of travelling and a lot of birding. Mainly it has been great fun. I have been lucky in picking a good year for rarities - some very hard to get species are on my list already! I am bang on target, I wanted 250 species by the end of March and I am a little over. So, why am I a little anxious?

Well, when you do a year list, the rairties tend to look after themselves, you just have to go for them! It is the uncommon passage migrants that can really do you a lot of harm. In the UAE there are certain species which are very scarce indeed and spring is the best time to get them.

These include: Corncrake; Caspian Plover; Black Tern; Common Cuckoo; Common Swift; Wood Warbler; Green Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Great Reed Warbler; Savi's Warbler; Garden Warbler; White-throated Robin; Thrush Nightingale; Semi collared Flycatcher and  Eastern Cinereous Bunting. That is 15 species and I have to see most, if not all of them! I am worried because I have to go to the UK for a friend's wedding and I will be away right in the middle of spring migration! This could make or break, my year. My plan is to bird every day on Abu Dhabi Island after work this week, to try and pick up some of these scarce migrants. I fly out on Friday morning. This is how I got on.

Sunday's plan of birding Mushrif Palace Gardens went out of the window straight away! A report of a Steppe Eagle saw to that! No joy though, but a very pleasant afternoon out.

0 species added (total 253 species): 130 kms travelled.

Monday and I am awaiting news of a White-throated Kingfisher & Mistle Thrush at Jebel Dhanna. Complete mayhem! Khalifa is working down there & will look for them this morning. The car is packed & fuelled up! Just awaiting a call.
Khalifa works the area hard but no joy! Robin & I decide to bird MPG's & Abu Dhabi Racecourse. However, it is strangely quiet, with hardly a migrant in sight. Squacco Heron; 4 Tree Pipits and a Masked Shrike being the pick of the bunch.
The female Grey Francolin in the Front Wood is now sitting hard. She has decided to nest in a very exposed location. We will just have to see how they fare.

Sitting very tight, on a full clutch of eggs.

It is dull and overcast, just a hint of rain. Where are all the migrants? This is peak time for passage now.

0 species added (total 253 species): 80 kms travelled.

Robin & I birded Emirates Palace this afternoon, after work. There were a few migrants around, but it was quite slow & hard going.
Best were: Common Quail; Wryneck; Black eared Weatear; 13 Red throated Pipit; 4 Tree PIpit; 5 Willow Warbler and 7 Chiffchaff. A new year bird for me, was a Spotted Flycatcher.

Spotted Flycatcher - an early migrant.

1 species added (total 254 species): 80kms travelled.

This afternoon we visited Al Wathba Lake. The habitat is in poor condition these days, with no management been done at all. The water levels have already receeded dramatically since my last visit. It looks more like the middle of summer, than early April! Birding was slow, best being 15 Black necked Grebes; Ferruginous Duck; 5 Northern Shoveler; 7 Pied Avocet; 4 Spotted Redshank; 8 Marsh Sandpiper; 21 Red necked Phalaropes. Both Clamorous Reed & Caspian Reed Warblers are now at full volume, with many pairs of each, set for breeding here.
One of the main reasons for visiting the lake is to look for rare hirundines. But, it has been a poor winter for them. Then out of the blue, I spot 25 Barn Swallows coming in to roost, with a Sand martin look-a-like with them! The scope revealed the bird was infact a Brown throated Martin and all birds eventually went to roost a Mafraq Sewage Treatment Plant & not the reeds by the small lake (their ususal roosting place). The bird had an extensive brown throat below and was not chinensis.
Robin & I have been out every day this week, and it has been slim pickings for the time of year. But, a stroke of good fortune like today, makes it all worth while.

1 species added (total 255 species): 70 kms travelled.

It's Thursday & I try my luck around the MPG's yet again. Robin joins me, but it is quite hard work. However, slowly but surely, we accumulate the species: Crested Honey Buzard; Masked Shrike; 2 Tree Pipits; 2 Upcher's Warblers & 2 Rufous Bush Robins were the pick of the crop.

My first Upcher's Warbler of the year!

Robin managed a personal milestone with the Rufous Bush Robin being his 200th species for this year!
The Abu Dhabi Racecourse was again very quiet, with Woodchat Shrike being the best record. A fine plumaged Black-headed Wagtail performed nicely, but the two pints of beer at the Golf Clubhouse were better consulation!

Off to snowy England tonight! Back on Tuesday morning. Please, don't let me miss another first for the UAE like last time I was out of the country!

1 species added (total 256 species): 80 kms travelled.

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