Friday, December 4, 2009

Cairo & Dahab (Sinai)

Birding in Cairo was pretty much only "drive-by" birding or what could be seen from the hotel but a fair amount of species was seen. Due to circumstances in Dahab I missed out on a desert safari so missed a load of the planned specials there.

Staying on the island of Zagalek in Cairo, the most common birds were Hooded Crows, House Sparrows and Turtle Doves with the occasional Laughing Dove around. One morning there were Yellow-vented Bulbuls (no idea where they were the other mornings) and a lone Kestrel. At the pyramids there was a Buzzard being harassed by the Hooded Crows.

The drive down to Saqqara goes along a wide channel and this proved more productive with Cattle Egret, Crag Martin, Little Egret (from what I saw it wasn't Western Reef Egret), a juvenile Squacco Heron, Spur-winged Lapwing, Egyptian Swallow (the Egyptian sub-species of Barn Swallow) and White Wagtail. Lunch on the one of the Nile river-boats in Cairo produced Pied and White-breasted Kingfisher, White Wagtail and Mallards - no sign of the Northern Pintails I'd heard were so abundant.

Down in Dahab there were some worth-while sightings too and even a couple of photo opportunities. The Osprey perched on the police station's antenna was a daily regular, albeit not popular with the cops as it defecates straight onto the entrance. The other usual suspects- Hooded Crows and House Sparrows were abundant and one had to hunt for anything else.

A pair of Western Reef Egrets visited the shoreline in front of our restaurant every morning giving the opportunity to see up close the difference in leg colour and bill shape and colour with that of Little Egret.

One morning early I came across a bunch of Spanish Sparrows further north of Dahab town as well White Wagtail and Laughing Dove. Singular surprises came in the form of a pair of Northern Pintails in the bay north of Dahab and a leisurely fly-by of a White-eyed Gull. The next day a Caspian Tern came cruising past. The highlight was a pair of Rough-legged Buzzards flying in from the north of the Gulf of Aqqaba (the gulf where Dahab is located and Saudi Arabia is the opposite shore).

On the 2nd Nov I drove with somebody to Cairo overland across Sinai - looking out for anything interesting was rather difficult at speed but at the one checkpoint, I was rewarded with Fan-tailed Raven.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hayle, RSPB Reserve in Cornwall, UK

Sunday, 18 October turned out to be grey and cool with the odd gusting wind. Out at Hayle though, it appeared to be a 'pleasant' day for the birds. An hour's birding at the mudflats and along the path to the hide produced a decent list of around 30 species, 3 of which I must give credit for to the other friendly birders who pointed out far-away species and let me 'use' their scope - thanks.

The path from the hide to mudflats produced a Robin, Blue Tit clambering through the reeds (not seen them doing this before), Chaffinches and Gold Finches. Arriving at the road-side view of the mudflats I was confronted with a host of birds. Most numerous were the Herring and Black-headed Gulls (adults and immatures) and Lapwings followed by a huge number of Common Teals, both adult and immatures. Between this the friendly birder pointed out a few pairs of Mediterranean Gulls with at least one sub-adult.

Nearby was a Curlew (see previous post for photos) working the shallows and a bit further off, a Common Redshank.
Common Redshank and Teals

Little Egret
, Rock Pipit, Pied and Grey Wagtails were on the near shore although the Pipit and Grey Wagtail were only around briefly. To the far edges there was a Grey Heron, at least one Eurasian Spoonbill and a fair amount of Wigeons. There were about 5 Eurasian Oystercatchers with one coming closer for awhile offering me at least a record photo opportunity.
Eurasian Oystercatcher

Another highlight was the Bar-tailed Godwit that the friendly birder pointed out - great to see as I don't to get to them very often. Other species present included Mute Swan and the obligatory Rooks.

Plumage Lessons from a Curlew

Sunday, 18 October I was at the Hayle RSPB Reserve in Cornwall (UK). A Curlew Numenius arquata was being most obliging in offering photo opportunities - just a pity the quality of light wasn't that great.

At one stage, it started preening and stretching wings presenting a great lesson in wing and tail plumage.

"You looking at me?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Birding at Bujagali Falls, Jinja (UGANDA)

Last week I spent a few days in Bujagali Falls where I stayed at Nile River Explorers. Located outside Jinja town, this area is not only the hub for kayaking and white-water rafting activities but also provides a great diversity in bird species. For those keen on the more obvious of insects, dragonflies and butterflies, there's a host of species and rather easy photo opportunities.

I didn't need to go far for some impressive sightings with the highlight probably the not often seen migrant Common/European Cuckoo although seeing the African Grey Parrots (photo on right) virtually everyday is always a special is my book. There was widespread evidence of successful breeding with immatures everywhere with adults, the most notable being the number of young with some pairs of Scarlet-chested Sunbirds who have clearly had a good breeding season. Red-chested Sunbirds were busy nesting in one of the large acacia trees. The Collared Sunbird pair also had one youngster with them.

Migrants in addition to the cuckoo were seen regularly with European Bee-eaters flying over, Olivaceous Warblers foraging in the acacia trees and a couple of sightings of Common Sandpipers in the eddy below the camp.

As far as numbers go the Long-tailed and Great Cormorants top as usual followed by the Sand Martins who appeared occasionally in flocks varying between 40 and 100. Although common, the Black Kites and Pied Crow never come close in numbers to the Cormorants and Martins. At one stage the Openbill Storks were around 20 birds with some soaring and others perched near the river.

Birds of prey are always great here with the most prominent (and verbal) being the African Fish Eagles. Long-crested Eagle and African Harrier-hawk made brief appearances overhead as did a Shikra (Little Banded Goshawk). A Lizard Buzzard perched close to the viewing deck with some prey and offered a great photo opportunity, albeit through the leaves and branches - not unlike the skulking but loud Black-headed Gonoleks.

Black-headed Gonolek

Other species seen here; Eastern Plantain-eater, Yellow White-eye, Little and Baglafecht Weavers, African Blue Flycatcher, Little Egret, Lesser Striped-Swallow, Grey-backed Camaroptera, African Darter and Black-headed Heron.
Eastern Plantain-Eater

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome to my new Blog

This blog will be for all matters birding-related outside of Rwanda from our neighbouring countries to other regions and continents. I will also be posting about some past trips in the meanwhile between my travels out of Rwanda.

There is a trip coming up next week where I'll be driving via Northern Tanzania (south of Lake Victoria - an area I've not visited before) to Nairobi, Kenya.

To kick off, here's a photo I took in August 2009 of a Hartlaub's Turaco in Nairobi, Kenya.