Sunday, 15 April 2012

Egyptian raptors

Back to last week's trip to Egypt, and one thing I haven't really mentioned yet were the copious amounts of raptors that we saw - at two spots (Marsa Alam and El Gouna) in two distinct waves. For a British birder, raptor migration is a real big draw for spring birding anywhere in the Middle East. Birders go crazy about the stuff that goes over Eilat for example, and for sure it's good as I've been there, but you've got to remember all those Steppe Buzzards and eagles are going up the Red Sea too, and the views in Egypt are properly good too! So eyes to the skies wherever you are. You've also got a few nice resident species of raptor in Egypt as well.
Black-shouldered Kite - common roadside bird in The Nile Valley
Right, I'll do a quick diary entry to give you a flavour...

4th April 2012 I'd had enough of the Nile Valley and was bloody glad to get out of the sprawl, as we'd headed up from Aswan early morning. Shit air quality, 100s of speed bumps and sprawl either side of the road - reminding you how much man has screwed up this planet in certain areas. Anyway, 17km west of Marsa Alam, Staines gets an eye full of birds high in the sky and soon enough, it's quick to see that something is going down with a few Steppe Eagles just chilling by the roadside in the mid morning sun.
2cy Steppe Eagle by the roadside west of Marsa Alam
Loads of Steppe Eagles are soaring low over a small bedouin camp, presumably they've typically either left a load of shit out or some goat has come to its end. Anyway, we set up stall by the road and for a couple of hours from 11am the notebook reads like this - Steppe Eagle 300 (pretty much all 2cys and a few 3cys), Steppe Buzzard 1000+, Black Kite 400 (some local birds as well as migrants), Booted Eagle 3, Short-toed Eagle 2, Long-legged Buzzard 1, Egyptian Vulture 5, Sparrowhawk 1, Black Stork 5 and Common Crane 4. Some birds were passing low, and some kettling high like nobody's business.
Steppe Eagle

Per Van Duivendijk on Black Kites 'rufous variant (most seen in the Middle East) with rather strong red-brown underparts, pale head... conspicuous dark band on underwing... wing formula sometimes intermediate between Black and Red with tendency for only 5 fingers'. Well, this Black Kite does what it says on that Dutch tin!

Egyptian Vulture
Every time I see large soaring birds in great numbers, it always brings me back to the first time. As a NW European birder, the first wave of eagles each trip makes me feel as rusty as an old car but then I quickly regain confidence and you can properly get into it. Just the spectacle is something I'd recommend to anyone, birder or non-birder. Good stuff again.

1 comment:

  1. Rich - are the rufous variant Black kites ascribed a 'form/morph' name? Also i saw a note recently regarding a picture of an adult BWKite in Saudi and it was pointed out that this bird belonged to one of the Eastern populations due to the feature of dark secondaries to the underwing - whether the Egyptian birds are classed as Western or Eastern i do'nt know -

    Laurie -