Back from the Middle East
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
After four work trips into the desert I have returned back to the UK. It was always going to be an experience, from physically (the heat and the wind!) to mentally challenging (up to three hours a day without seeing a single bird, just camels).
August was like working in an oven but with only a few birds, a single Sooty Falcon was very, very nice. September slightly cool just a mild 40c on most days but the skys opened and birds moved through on mass. October less passerines and more raptors with a cool 36c most days. November was cool, migration had dried up but winter birds moved in and most of the desert species started to breed.
I really enjoyed being saturated in shrike species with Red-backed and Woodchat the commonest. Lower numbers of Lesser Grey, Masked, Steppe and Southern Grey Shrikes which were breeding.
There appeared to be some variation in the primary projection length, some appear to equal the tertial length and other about half the length. Not sure if was variation within the species or related to different races of Southern Grey Shrike or was age related. Most of the Southern Grey Shrike we saw appeared to be adults but some were distant.
Lots of singing going on in the desert in the winter from most of the birds. Here this Southern Grey Shrike was hold territory beside where we were working.
An adult Steppe Grey Shrike perhaps easier than the juveniles/1st winter to miss at a distance, the pale bill was a good feature to use as was the paler base to base to the bill. This wasn't as pale as the juveniles so required a closer inspection. Any odd shrike was always worth a good look. All the birds we saw seemed to share the same habitat as the Southern Grey Shrikes
There was some variation with Steppe Grey Shrikes, this bird above was at the paler end and the prior bird was towards darker end. Pale lores, pale base to the bill, pale fringes to the greater coverts and long primary projection were straight forward features to use. Most birds appear to be juveniles/1st winter and we only picked up one confirmed adult bird. It would have been great to spent more time watching these birds. Unfortunately working all the time I did not get the opportunity to spend too much time studying the species. We were studying the sky and most of these shrikes moved through during the peak migration for soaring birds. Migrants can move quickly through the desert and it really depended on the weather conditions. On windless mornings you could see warblers and shrikes moving through the bushes. Pipits, lark and bee-eaters would always move and varied their altitude according to the temperature.