Irakaya Farm 8-2-20
The weather was bright and breezy as I arrived at the Farm. After the last visit when I saw numerous Golden Eagles soaring in the afternoon thermals, I was hopeful of seeing some eagles. There were none to be seen, although there were plenty of Harriers as usual. This day was dominated by the Kestrel and I was lucky enough to spot a Corn Bunting (above) as well as one other confusing bird (see below).
While there were no eagles to be seen, I did spot this raptor floating high above.
Buzzards can vary greatly in their colouring, but I’m pretty sure this one is a Long-Legged Buzzard, which if true would be a first for me.
A Kestrel Day
There were Kestrels everywhere. I spotted this one as I made my way towards one of the water tanks. There were a surprising number (to me) of Kestrels on the ground today. This one kept an eye on me as I approached, before eventually taking off.
He’s a handsome male, with his slate-grey helmet and rufous back. Kestrels have black claws at the end of their talons, whereas the Lesser Kestrel’s are white.
Kestrel with Tether
This female Kestrel was often visible, and very distinctive with what looked like a tether attached to its legs. I assume it was an escapee, and it was very busy hovering and swooping down. I counted seven Kestrels in all on my visit. It seemed very healthy and to mind, enjoying its liberty.
Kestrels were once a very common sight in the UK, but sadly now are in decline there. It was lovely to spend some time watching these amazing birds at close quarters.
Dozing Red Wattled Lapwing
I usually check out the water tanks that are used to feed the giant irrigation machines that slowly lumber over the meadows.
On this occasion I found a Red Wattled Lapwing asleep, with his legs folded so that he looks like he’s kneeling down. Judging by the bird droppings on the side of the reservoir, this is a popular spot.
I’m surprised more birds aren’t normally present around this tank. It may be the steep sides which prevent easy access to the water.
Stumped. Possible Blackstart?
At first I thought it was a Northern Wheatear, but a closer look confirmed that the colours are wrong. It’s definitely Wheatear shaped however. It had a light grey back and light coloured breast with just a hint of pink or buff. There’s no eye stripe and it has a black tail.
I’m marking this one down as a Blackstart, but I’m really not sure.
If you’re a better twitcher than me, drop me a note with your suggestion.
Back in Wales, the Stonechat is a common sight in the bracken that throngs the lower side of the Welsh hills. I’m particularly fond of the Sugar Loaf and there’s a section of footpath there where you are guaranteed to see these showy birds.
The best time to see them is August on a bright sunny day, as many of the other song birds have disappeared for their moult at this time.
This bird was much darker than the Stonechats I was seeing and had a more distinctive white collar too.
Having consulted ‘Birds of The Middle East’, I’m confidently claiming this one as a Siberian Stonechat.
As you can see from the photograph, there really is a blaze of colour at the farm at this time of year, with many butterflies also on the wing. The sound of birdsong and the scent of mown grass, the sighing of wind and are intoxicating after many months of searing heat and scorched earth.
Southern Grey Shrike
Having seen my first Shrikes on my previous visits, I was prepared for more.
This Southern Grey Shrike was one of a pair that were using this bush as a lookout. They would dart down to the ground and then return to their vantage point.
I have seen but not been able to photograph one of these shrikes with an insect or other prey. I’ll keep looking.
Crested Lark Lets Rip
The Crested Lark is a very common sight on the Farm. They are everywhere and can be seen scuttling across the ground and flying between patched of open ground all around.
I noticed this bird which had stalked out of some cover and onto the rock. As I watched, he started to sing. I was photographing him and managed to catch him, eyes closed, blasting out an aria into the shimmering heat rising from the gravel and stone floor.
Bird List 8-2-20
Corn Bunting (top image, possible), Crested Lark, Kestrel, Western Marsh Harrier, Siberian Stonechat, European Stonechat, Red Wattled Lapwing, Blackstart (possible), Western Grey Shrike, Long-Legged Buzzard (possible).