Saturday, 21 April 2012

It's Cuckoo Mayhem!

It is Friday morning, at least I think it is Friday morning! There is a persistant ringing sound in my head. I turn it off. It is 2.30 am! This is what you have to do if you want to be a Fujairah National Dairy Farm for dawn these days. (If you live in Abu Dhabi of course; those lucky Dubai based birders, will be still a slumbering).
I am very hopeful for a big day. Migration is in full swing and I need to get a few of those really uncommon migrants. The FNDF is a good bet. The afternoon will be spent on a pelagic off Kalba. 100+ species are on the cards! Robin, Oscar & I set off into the night. This is how the day unfolded.
We had a straightforward and uneventful drive and arrived on pole, at around dawn. We walked the road first and a few migrants were logged immediately: 23 Pale Rockfinch; a Lesser Grey Shrike; plenty of Blue-cheeked & European Bee-eaters flying over; Upcher's Warbler and best of the bunch, a fine male White throated Robin (my first at this location).

White throated Robin

Around 19 Lesser Kestrel, adorned the skies above the fields. It is always great to see these little beauties.

Wonderfully aerial Lesser Kestrels!
Males are just superb!

We then take a decision to cover the Goat Farm first. It proves a good move, as it is alive with migrants:
200+ Eurasian Turtles Dove; a late Eurasian Sparrowhawk; Pallid Harrier; Collared Pratincole; 8 species of shrike! 300+ Barn Swallow; 5 Common House Martin; 3 Red rumped Swallow; 5 Whinchat; Northern, Pied & Isabelline Wheatears; 95 Red throated Pipits & a single Tree Pipit; 6 Ortolan Buntings.
After a brief breakfast, we then cover the cattle farm side of the road. Again lots of migrants: European Roller & Red backed Shrike, were both new for the year. Robin didn't see the shrike, so I offered to try & find it for him. It went down in a clump of long grass & so off we went to flush it. But, on the way I nearly trod  on an adult Baillon's Crake! It was almost under my boot, it was so close! Robin saw it as well, but Simon & Oscar were over 200m away & despite trying, we couldn't flush it again.
Along the road were 4 Common Cuckoos (2 of the hepatic phase), which showed quite well. Cuckoos are pretty scarce migrants in the UAE, so this was a bit of a treat.

Common Cuckoo
Hepatic phase
However, our day of cuckoos was not yet over. I found a singing male Yellow throated Sparrow, which eventually showed well to all. Robin & I decided to work a clump of trees near the entrance gate. While I was scanning ahead, Robin saw a large bird fly over being chased by 2 House Crows. Then Oscar behind us shouted Great Spotted Cuckoo! First, it gave us the runaround, but then gave itself up to all in the small trees alongside the main road. What a bird!
Great spotted Cuckoo
Star bird of the spring?
A very good mornings birding & all too soon we had to leave for the boat trip off Kalba. On the way we saw this guy driving down the highway. Take a close look at the photo!

Very UAE!

 In the harbour, a Common Kingfisher flashed by (very late). But the sea proved quiet 50+ Persian Shearwaters; 10 Red-necked Phalaropes and 7 Arctic Skuas were the highlights.

The boys, having a laugh!
 It looks a bit of a struggle with those lens!
 Khalifa doing his bit.
It's over here! No, it's over here!
6 species added (277 species): 625 kms travelled.

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