I had a very interesting time observing the Lilith Owls at their burrow yesterday.
One of the parents was on sentry duty outside the burrow. It was vocalising quite a lot. I was wondering what was causing this. I soon got the answer
Up popped a juvenile. It stared at me inquisitively, sometimes rocking from side to side as owls do, as it tried to work out what I was
Soon it was joined by a sibling and there were two owls staring at me.
The show was not yet over and moments later a third owl put in an appearance. Here two are looking up at the parent whilst one keeps tabs on me. I have subsequently been told that 5 owlets have been observed. Four healthy, robust birds and one smaller, weaker one.
The parent on duty kept on scanning in one direction. At first I thought it had seen a threat, as the juveniles had disappeared back into the burrow again.
Moments later the other parent landed at the site with this snake gripped firmly in its beak. It quickly disappeared into the burrow with it. It then reappeared and flew off again. I believe the snake is a False Cobra. (Rhagerhis moilensis) It gets the name by spreading its neck into a hood and hissing like a Cobra. They are known to grow up to 1,5m in length.
I managed to relocate it again as it rested up in the shade outside what looks like a secondary burrow.
Numbers and variety were down, but there is almost always something new or different to be found
A grey morph Western Reef Heron was waiting patiently for Dragonflies to come within range before trying to spear them in mid-flight. I saw him have two successful strikes.
A slightly out of focus shot of a Eurasian Collared Dove exploding into flight out of a shallow pool of water in which it was bathing
There were about a dozen of these European Bee-eaters to be seen. I have recorded them here before but this was my first image of them at this venue
There were several flocks of Indian Silverbills to be seen during the course of the morning
First I heard the distinctive call of this little Graceful Prinia. It then kindly obliged by popping out of the thick bush it was feeding in and hopped around out in the open on this rock. It then flew off into the next bush. This is also a first image for me for this species in Qatar
Here are a few images that I managed to get of an Osprey that flew overhead when I was out at Al Wakrah the other afternoon.
I am waiting for the day that I will get the full action sequence of an Osprey dive-bombing into the water and coming out with a fish in its talons. Hope springs eternal
I decided to visit the Al Wakrah beach again as there was an incoming tide in the afternoon. Unfortunately it was not very "high" so did not push up too far. Despite the ever present traffic on the beach I still managed to have some success.
A Slender-billed Gull in full cry
A Little Stint wading in deep water. Normally they are seen moving rapidly along the beach just above the water line
A nice crisp image of a Bar-tailed Godwit
A Ruddy Turnstone in smart Summer plumage with the rich chestnut coloured markings on the back visible
A Lesser Sand Plover in breeding plumage
A Kentish Plover male in breeding plumage. I have been surprised at how few of these birds I have seen. They have been far outnumbered by the Lesser Sand Plovers this Spring
A Terek Sandpiper running at full tilt across the beach
Other species included: Black Oystercatcher, Common Mynah, White-eared Bulbul, Western Reef Heron, Grey Plover, Osprey and the rest.
The other day I visited the owls to see what they were up to. The one bird was quite active, flying to nearby rocky outlook points and scanning the area before flying back to base. This is something I had not seen before. Normally one bird is on sentry duty on a suitable vantage point at the base. Later the owl picked up a prey item that it had previously caught and then flew off to one of these vantage points and continued to feed. Does anybody have an idea of what this animal was? I attempted some BIF images. They are not the best quality as it flew low to the ground and I struggled to track it successfully against the background. Here is what I managed.
Feeding on what is possibly a bat of some description
About to land on a suitable observation post
Heading back to base
Note all the blood around the beak after feeding
Early the other morning I came across two Squacco Herons at one of the irrigation storage dams. Here are some of the images as I watched them go about their early morning business
A crisp image in early morning light of an adult in breeding plumage complete with lovely long black and white streaked nape plumes
Strike one. Dragonfly for breakfast
Some under-wing maintenance on the right wing
Strike two. Unidentified juicy creepy crawly
An inquisitive peck at something close to hand
Under- wing maintenance on the left wing
A balancing act that defies logic as it reaches out to catch another dragonfly
It begins to overbalance, but remains focussed and totally commited
Prey secure, now lets get back onto terra firma (in this case a floating algae bed)
It is great to see a pair of Lapwings that have bred and are busy incubating their eggs. I hope they are successful and manage to raise their chicks. I will monitor with much interest.
Well camouflaged eggs in a shallow nest on the ground
For a change of scenery I drove up to Al Ruwais and then worked my way back home via Fuwairit, Al Thakira and Al Khor. Al Ruwais was very quiet and it was compounded with the tide being far out. There was little on offer in the port, or along the coast past the mangroves. What I did notice though is that the Kentish Plovers have bred and I came across several chicks as I drove along the coastline. I then travelled towards Fuwairit on the back road. Along the way I came across several large flocks of sheep and goats leaving their overnight penning areas and heading out into the desert. For the first time I saw the Shepherds were riding on donkeys accompanying the flocks.
I was bitterly disappointed when I arrived at Fuwairit to find the whole beach area has been fenced off and that the entrance was locked. I had been planning to drive to the spit at the end of the beach where I was hoping to see flocking Terns and other waders.
Next I went to Al Thakira. There were a few waders on offer, but with the tide still quite low it was not ideal. From there I continued on to the port in Al Khor. There were a few Terns patrolling the harbour on the look-out for any scraps of fish. A short drive from there took me to the beach area opposite the mangroves. There were quite a lot of waders present. Also large numbers of dark and pale morph Western Reef Herons had gathered in the shallows to feed. In amongst these were two Eurasian Spoonbills, which was a nice surprise and added another tick to my Qatar list. I sat and enjoyed watching them preening and feeding for a while.
From there it was back onto the highway and a drive home to the city.
Kentish Plover chick along the northern coast near Al Ruwais
The birding was slow so I got side-tracked looking at some Sheep and Goats
Caspian Tern patrolling
Attempted dive bombing of a fish
Eurasian Spoonbill wading in the shallows
Other species included: Greater Flamingo, Terek Sandpiper, Lesser Sand Plover, Grey Plover, Great Cormorant, Slender-billed Gull, Dunlin, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Striated Heron, Greenshank, Little Egret, Common Kestrel, Crested Lark, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Heron, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Lesser Crested Tern, and Turkestan Shrike.
I arrived at the farm very early to make use of the morning light and to get a few hours in before the temperature climbed too high. It worked out much better than I thought. I got some pleasing images of the Lilith Owls and then managed to find of two new species for my Qatar list. This brings my total to 164. All in all a satisfying mornings birding.
Lilith Owl in soft light
I had been trying to get within range of some Ruff that were feeding in the stubble. They were too skittish, but also present were a few European Turlte Doves which were more accommodating. A new species for my Qatar list.
Later in the morning whilst I was driving in the Wadi, I came across another pair of European Turtle Doves, this time in a tree
When I first saw this raptor perched on the centre pivot irrigation line I thought it was an Osprey. On closer inspection it turned out to be a Short-toed Snake Eagle. They are scarce passage migrants and Winter visitors, so a great new tick for my Qatar list
It then obliged by soaring over my position with its wings held level. A lovely sight, as I have not encountered that many different raptor species here thus far.
Side view of the Short-toed Snake Eagle
Other species included: Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Crested Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Turkestan Shrike, Arabian Grey Shrike, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Pallid Harrier, Squacco Heron, Corn Bunting, Red-vented Bulbul, White-eared Bulbul, European Bee-eater, Barn Swallow, Isabelline Wheatear, Red-wattled Lapwing and the rest.
Numbers and diversity were both down on the farm today. Have the bulk of the birds passed through? This is my first full Spring migration here in Qatar so I have nothing to compare it with. Speaking to a long time local birder he tells me he feels it has been quieter than usual this season. Despite this I am satisfied with what I have found.
I watched this female Pallid Harrier consuming a small bird, possibly a Quail. Whilst it was busy with its meal I was able to approach and take a few images.
At one of the water storage dams I came across a few waders. Numbers are way down and other than a small party of Wood Sandpipers most of the other sightings were all single birds. I also saw a Common Sandpiper but did not get a photo.
Black-winged Stilt. Notice upper left leg shape
I came across two Squacco Herons. This one is taking a short break from hunting Dragon-flies
A Corn Bunting was perched on a plant in the middle of one of the fields, happily singing away
Shrike numbers have also tapered off. This Turkestan Shrike has a rather broad supercilium, is grey-brown above rather than the rich earth brown of earlier birds, and has almost no visible rust colouration on the flanks.
Other species included: Crested Lark, Greater Short-toed Lark, Red Vented Bulbul, Lilith Owl, Barn Swallow, Sand Martin, Red-wattled Lapwing, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Isabeline Wheatear and the rest.