Monday, 21 April 2014

My new patch

My work has now taken me to Egypt, and I live about 20 kms to the west of Cairo, in a 'new town' called 6th October City and through the wonders of Google Earth I found a large area of wetland some 10 kms further west.

It seems to be two lakes (each covering about 400 ha) formed by the 'grey water' outfall from the city at 29°56'46.12" N  30°48'30.73" E and given that it is on the very edge of the western desert it looks to be a very promising site.

I've driven out there three times so far and managed a total of 72 species. The commonest water birds are squacco heron, cattle egret, common moorhen and little grebe. The water edges currently hold quite a few waders passing through on migration such as wood sandpiper, green sandpipercommon sandpiper and ruff together with good numbers of little stint and the ubiquitous spur-ringed plovers.

I've seen large numbers of hirundines hawking above the lakes. Mainly barn swallow (with plenty of the Egyptian sub-species, hirundo rustica savignii), sand martin, house martin and a few red-rumped swallow.

Marsh harrier are predictably the commonest raptor but I've also managed pallid harrier, black-winged kite, steppe eagle and common kestrel.

Of the passerines, I've seen three species of bee-eater, three species of pipit, plenty of woodchat shrike and amongst the yellow wagtails of various hues there are a few colourful m. f. pygmaea, another Egyptian sub-species. On my first trip I also managed to kick up a common quail and an egyptian nightjar from the low scrub.

Odonata are evidently fairly thin on the ground in Egypt. Some believe this is due to much of the water being either polluted or overly managed. But I did get this photo of a male red-veined darter.

Red-veined darter

March round up

March saw the end of my all too brief sojourn in Azerbaijan. Although I was only birding there over the winter I still managed 148 species including 21 lifers. Lammergeier, little bustard and dalmatian pelican were amongst the many highlights. It was a pity that even the hardiest birds had vacated the mountains during the depths of winter but it's an area I will certainly return to.

I moved to Egypt towards the end of March and started birding here in the Cairo area so my months total was a fairly decent 106 including just the one lifer, a smart male Ruppells warbler on the golf course where I live which was bird of the month.

Egypt may not have a huge amount of lifers for me but the deep south should hold some surprises and Western Palearctic rarities.  

Sunday, 2 March 2014


Today I took a trip up to Namran to bird the coastal forest near the Russian border and hopefully find some wintering woodland birds. The woods are quite extensive and at this time of year devoid of people although the well worn paths and cafes closed for winter suggested that isn't always the case.

The shore and sea were almost devoid of birds except for a few LWHG's but the mixed deciduous woodlands were fairly lively.

Commonest birds were great tit and chaffinch but I did manage a few new Azeri birds such as treecreeper (not the short-toed variety though), together with wood pigeon, long-tailed tit and a couple of jackdaw on the open fields.

There were plenty of woodpeckers drumming, most of which were great-spotted woodpecker but I added middle-spotted woodpecker to my life list with a couple of individuals. It was also good to find several hawfinch which I haven't seen for a few years.

But perhaps the most interesting sightings were the two mammals I saw. Firstly a rather sleepy raccoon resting outside his home high in an old tree. These are an introduced species culled for the fur trade. Then in the early afternoon as I was slowly driving the back road I saw a very large cat wander across the road in the middle distance. It was twice the size of any feral cat I've ever seen with long legs and a long tail giving a very elegant appearance. Jungle cat?

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Hajigabul lake

Hajigabul lake is about one and a half hours drive south of Baku. A large, shallow lake with a causeway dividing it from some abandoned fish farms it seems to be a much better site for winter wildfowl than Shirvan NP. Although 'Birdwatching in Azerbaijan' says it's a top spot for white-headed duck, marbled teal and black-necked grebe I didn't see a single bird of any of those three species.

The lake held about 10,000 ducks, mostly teal and shoveler and the shore held good numbers of waders mostly dunlin and pied avocet.

55 species in the day... and 9 new Azeri ticks in bold...

8 Mute swan
45 Ruddy shelduck
1,500 Shelduck
70 Gadwall
300 Wigeon
100 Mallard
2,500 Shoveler
400 Pintail
3,000 Teal
400 Red-crested pochard
300 Common pochard
200 Tufted duck
135 Greater flamingo
250 Pygmy cormorant
3 Dalmatian pelican
30 Grey heron
6 Great egret
5 Little egret
1 Golden eagle
50 Marsh harrier
1 Hen harrier
1 Little bustard
5 Moorhen
1 Coot
400 Avocet
1 Grey plover
50 Lapwing
45 White-tailed lapwing
6 Kentish plover
20 Ringed plover
6 Green sandpiper
200 Redshank
4 Ruff
1,200 Dunlin
10 Little stint
8 Snipe
20 Med gull
2 Pallas's gull
1 Black-headed gull
6 Kestrel
6 Magpie
50 Hooded crow
4 Bearded tit
25 Crested lark
15 Skylark
1 Great tit
70 Starling
1 White wagtail
1 Meadow pipit
50 Reed bunting
15 Corn bunting
30 Chaffinch
1 Brambling
50 House sparrow
5 Spanish sparrow

Friday, 28 February 2014

February round up

Although I didn't get out as much as I would have liked in February I did add Finsch's wheatear and white-tailed eagle to my life list which is now 1,025. My Azerbaijan list now stands at 129 although my year list is still a very slow 104.

Bird of the month has to be the obliging white-tailed eagle that posed for photos on some ice at Red Lake.