After the failure to obain access to the Farm on Friday, I thought I’d drive down after work today and see if it I could get in. I’m glad I did because there was a lot going on. I’d only previously visited the farm during the peak migration period from January through February and into March. It turned out that this was my busiest ever day.
Falconers at Irakaya Farm
As before, there were signs of vehicles with guns. The party below however, were hunters of a different kind. They were falconers and although I didn’t wait to watch them, I could see birds with snoods on. I’m never sure about protocols so I didn’t feel like appproaching and because I was short of time I drove off in search of birds to photograph.
The pasture land had been stripped back in places and the ground was littered with small, lightly coloured rocks. It took me a while to notice that scattered among the rocks were several small, sparrow sized birds. I thought at first they must been a kind of bunting, but when I got home and did some further research it seems these are Black-crowned Sparrow Larks — a very big name for such a diminutive bird.
There were half a dozen harriers visible at most times. As far as I could tell, none were adult males and all were either juveniles or females. I find distinguishing the juveniles/females between harrier species very difficult. eBird seems fairly convinced these are Pallid Harriers, so that’s what I’m going with.
Lying in various locations around the farm are circular reservoirs, which I assume feed the irrigation booms that slowly crawl across the fields. I usually stop by each one I pass and quite often see Black Winged Plovers. I was frankly astonished to see a Glossy Ibis this time. The last time I’d seen one had been back in the UK on Godcliffe Lagoons. This one is a juvenile, so not quite so pretty, but I was chuffed and midly surprised to see one on the Farm.
Great Hoopoe Lark
There are plenty of these larks about, as I noted from my last visit.
As I watched, the bird below caught a huge caterpillar and took several seconds to subdue it, before eating it. The Black-crowned Sparrow Lark behind looks on transfixed throughout.
These birds look quite drab until they take wing, when the flashing does resemble a Hoopoe — I’m guessing this where they got their name from.
These beautiful birds are always a pleasure to find. I’ve slightly cheated with this photograph as it looks like the bird is singing. In fact, it was merely panting, something with I didn’t realise birds did. Watching the Minah birds from my balcony over this long, hot, Covid summer was the first time I realised birds do so as like dogs, they lack any other means for cooling their core temperature..
I settled beside a stand of water that had spilled from the reservoir. The scene resembled any riverine location, with shallow water and lush vegatation. A sudden flash of yellow caught my attention. I was puzzled, since the bird didn’t look like the yellow wagtails I’ve seen in the UK. I consulted the Middle East app and discovered there are many colour morphs. The one I was looking at most closely resembled the pygmaea variant.
I’m not very good at waders. I thought this one must be a Green Sandpiper as it was on its own. But the white shoulder flash is indicative of the Common Sandpiper. The bird’s tail was bobbing up and down, which is also indicative. However, It wasn’t doing it a lot, which again made me consider the Green Sandpiper. In the end, I’m confident however, this is a plain old Common Sandpiper, but remains the only one I’ve seen on the farm.
I was photographing the Hoopoe Lark (above) when the car was suddenly bombarded with flying grasshoppers. Everywhere I looked, the ground was thick with them as they crawled, jumped and flew across the track.
In this year of Covid, a plague of grasshoppers? Who knows, but an interesting sight nonetheless.
The air was thick with swallows and I spent some time trying to catch one on the wing. After numerous failed attempts, I settled on a strategy. Set the camera to manual, the shutter to 1/2000 sec and apetrure at f9. Then pre-focus on a location and wait for a bird to enter the frame. At 600mm you don’t have much time to react so I was quite pleased with the way this one turned out.
There were also many Martens flying about but I was unable to postively identify them. I’ll try again next time.
Bird List 21-9-20
Hoopoe, Great Hoopoe Lark, Black-crested Sparrow Lark, Pallid Harrier, Barn Swallow, Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Isabelline Wheatear, Crested Lark