Irkhaya Farm 22-2-20
Today’s visit was quieter than normal with only one Harrier quartering the fields. There have recently been five or six of these birds in the air, as well as significant numbers of kestrels — see this post for more about kestrels.Today’s visit was quieter than normal with only one Harrier quartering the fields. There are often five or six visible as well as kestrels (see this post for more about kestrels).
The main image above puts the farm into context. The desert surrounds the green meadows of the farm and this is why it is such a hotspot during the migrating season. There were many more dragonflies on the wing than I’ve seen before, as well as butterflies.
The huge irrigation booms that crawl slowly over the fields are sometimes inefficiently connected, with large spouts of water cascading from one end of the line. Where that happens, the ground puddles and there are higher than usual densities of insects.
I noticed large numbers of dragonflies hovering around these areas. They looked to be one type, with a green tinge their thorax and head.
I’ve seen Eagles soaring high in the sky above but this is the first time I’ve come across one close to the ground. It is a Steppe Eagle and was quite a distance away when I spotted it. I slowly made my way towards it, but as I got within 200 metres it took flight.
I’ll have to re-think my tactics if I get another chance to have a closer look at one of these beautiful birds.
According to my Middle East Birds app, the Isabelline Wheatear is a common visitor to Qatar. It’s a very smart looking bird, even when the wind is ruffling its feathers.
They were certainly very prominent on this visit, with the bird opposite and below returning to this post regularly. There are Northern Wheatears around as well, and I might have glimpsed a Pied Wheatear too.
Spanish Sparrow Nests
Growing up, the cheerful chirping of the House Sparrow was a common place, almost a soundtrack to our suburban lives. These days they are much less common and it is therefore very lovely to see and hear so many sparrows here in Qatar.
Of course the birds you see here are not all House Sparrows. Out on the farm, the are huge colonies of Spanish Sparrows (chestnut heads).
Inside the colonies, they make huge nests which remind me of a weaver bird’s.
On occasion, huge flocks swirl over the fields, shape-shifting in the way that such large gatherings of birds on the wing often do.
I will pay closer attention to the sparrows on my next visit as House Sparrows inter-breed with Spanish Sparrows and I’d like to establish definitively whether these large flocks are made up entirely of Spanish Sparrows, or whether there are unnoticed House Sparrows in there too.
The desert looms close to the irrigated fields as I have mentioned and in between the fields it returns quickly. I spotted two quite luminous flashes of colour in a gully and on closer inspection I was delighted to discover a pair of desert hyacinths in bloom.
You get accustomed to the grey-white landscape, and these unexpected flashes of colour were very cheering.
Southern Grey Shrike
The Southern Grey Shrikes are still present in good numbers. At times, it seems almost every bush has its own resident bird.
They are very distinctive in profile, and usually perch near the top of a bush. They then dart down to the ground before returning to their position. I’ve yet to record one with prey which I’m on the look out for. There will be other Shrikes around as well, but until now I’ve had to settle for these beautiful birds.
Given how long I’ve waited to see a Shrike, I’m certainly counting my blessings.
Bird List 22-2-20
Steppe Eagle, Namaqua Dove, Southern Grey Shrike, Red Wattled Plover, Spanish Sparrow, Crested Lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Pied Wheatear (possible), Marsh Harrier, Stonechat.