Creatures of the Desert Lagoon

Creatures-of-the-Desert-Lagoon

I’ve been coming to Karaana Lagoons for as while now, and I travelled to Karaana Lagoons today to see how the site has developed over the summer. It remains a perplexing location. Several kilometres west of Irakaya Farm, you have to double back on yourself to gain access. There are no signs to alert you to its presence and you must bump your way over unmade tracks and past a fenced complex of some kind to get there. A green smudge above the brow of a small hill resolves into a line of rushes. These have now grown thickly and are very dense. There are just a few locations now where you can peer out to see the sparkling waters of the lagoon.

Marsh Harriers

As soon as I pulled in, it was obviously going to be a big Marsh Harrier day. There were four of five immediately visible from my location between the two large lagoons. To get there you must traverse a narrow track to one side of the rushes.

Two Marsh Harriers were tumbling through the air as I watched, a spectacle called, appropriately enough, sky-dancing.

I watched several Marsh Harriers quarter the rushes, flying slowly as they do at a speed that appears to defy the law of gravity. Occasionally, a bird would hover over the rushes as it spotted a bird or a frog. For such large birds, they are amazingly subtle flyers, and it was an entrancing sight to watch them perform.

Osprey and Terns

The feeling of the place reminds me of a clay or gravel pit in the UK, although the temperature is still well into the 30 degrees Celsius, so appearances can be deceptive.

In addition to several White-winged Black Terns, there was also an osprey, who was busy fishing across on the far side of the lagoon from my location. I recently posted a story about these desert ospreys, which are extraordinary birds to encounter in such an apparently unlikely setting.

A Spin Through Irakaya Farm

There were several vehicles which looked like they might be hunters — the sight of spent gun catrdiges is heart breakingly familiar — so I decided to move on. Irakaya Farm is on my way home, and I thought I’d pay a quick visit. I’m glad I did, as I saw two creatures I’d not previously encountered. The first was a dhab, as the Qatari’s refer to it. The scientific name is Uromastyx and it is a kind of monitor lizard. They can grow up to 60cm and weigh as much as 4 kilos. They are said to aggressive with a nasty bite and the Beduoins used to hunt them for food. This specimen was probably no more than 20cm long, but it definitely had that baleful lizard eye.

I decided I would follow the outer perimeter of each field and as I did so I came across another unexpected sight. I was slowly driving up a slight rise when I glimpsed the unmistakable sight of two erect, canine ears. As I moved a little further forward, I could see it was a desert fox. This was an unforgettable moment, as the desert fox is very rarely seen and is reported to be present further south in the area of Qatar where sand dunes tumble into the sea. It stopped stock still and waited for a moment before scampering quickly into the thick grass. It all happened too quickly for me to photograph, so the photograph here isn’t mine, but I’m including it for reference purposes.

A Butcher Bird At Work

 There were dozens of Green and European Bee-eaters who were competing with the Barn Swallows for the abundant insects on the wing. The landscape was alive with millions of grasshoppers, which it seems the Grey Shrikes have a penchant for. I watched one bird imaple a grasshopper on a strand of barbed wire and then strip the wings off, before dismembering ther carcass.

It’s easy to forget these birds are actually song birds.

Watch The Video

There’s so much to see on these visits and the bird life is surprisingly good. In order to tell these stories better, I’ve begun posting short videos of my trips on YouTube. My channel is called Birderlife — which should come as no surprise.

I made a video of today’s visit to the Karaana Lagoons and then onto the Farm. You can watch it below.

What was your most exciting non-bird sighting? Leave a comment below.

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