Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wishes do come true

It's a Foggy Friday morning. It's a short trip to our destination but the thick fog slows down traffic on the highway. At one point, visibility went down to 5 meters that we were forced to stop by a petrol station. It's still too early so we decided to wait out for the fog to lift and had breakfast at one of the food stores there.

Our destination is Al-Mekaines farm or Irkkya farm.  Back in the Philippines, I would scout this place looking at google maps. I called it crop circles because of the shape of the greenery.  These are big circles with diameters of up to 750 meters. This farm is a grass farm. Yes you read it right, it's a grass farm. They plant nothing but grass.

Early morning fog at Irkkya Farm

Entering the gates of the farm, I could already see birds fly across the road. I switched to birding mode and hoped that I would see my target bird, the Eurasian Hoopoe. I've been wishing to see this bird for the longest time. It's been on the top of my most wanted list for many years now. Excited, I prepped my camera and bins and started scanning the horizon.  Birds were singing all around us but all I could see are the birds I regularly see in the city like the Laughing Doves, House Sparrows and the now common Crested Larks. I saw my first lifer after just a few minutes in the area, a Grey Francolin. Then another lifer. A very short glimpse of a Eurasian Golden Oriole and the Namaqua Dove.

There are a lot of birds here. In just under an hour I started racking up lifer after lifer. Western Marsh-Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Eurasian Hobby, Common Kestrel. Saw two species of wagtails, the Yellow and White. There was the Daurian Shrike, the Southern Gray Shrike and a Blue-cheeked Beeeater.

Southern Gray-Shrike

In another section of the farm, waterbirds abound like Terns, Egrets, Plover, Sandpipers and Stints. A Bar-tailed Godwit showed up just 4 meters in front of us. Unmindful of our presence, it just kept on probing the soil for food and looking at us from time to time.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Mercury level started to rise after two hours but still I couldn't find the elusive hoopoe.  I was starting to lose hope and was just contented by watching the aerial dance of the raptors. We were cruising in a rather faster than normal birding speed when suddenly we flushed a bird on my side of the vehicle. I started yelling, Hoopoe! Hoopoe! Hoopoe! And there it was, the Eurasian Hoopoe landed just a few meters in front of us.  I hurriedly grabbed my camera, hands shaking, heartbeat racing, aimed and as soon as focus acquired, I fired away. And as soon as the camera started clicking it flew away.  Seeing the bird on the ground was awesome but seeing it in flight was majestically awesome. It has a very unique feather pattern, a pattern which is so distinguishable even from afar. 

Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

It landed just a few meters away so I decided to put down the camera and just enjoyed the bird with my binoculars.  I was hoping that it would raise its crest but it did not.  Had a very good view of my most wanted bird. I was smiling, I was a happy birder.  With that super lifer, my day was complete.

On our way out, we saw a pair of Cream-coloured Courser, a Greater Hoopoe-Lark and a very obliging Spotted Flycatcher.

Spotted Flycatcher

With all of us satisfied with the number of species seen we exited the gate, thanked the guard and drove back to the city.

My wish came true that day. I am happy!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Birds in "D" City

I've been walking around the city of Doha for quite some time now. The more common birds I always see are the Common Mynahs, House Sparrows, Rock Pigeons and occasionally Eurasian Collared-Doves. I've also seen a few very noisy Alexandrine Parakeets in flight. But in my book I don't tick them as lifers. They have to be perched or walking on the ground to be counted.

Fog descended over the city one Friday morning. First time I've experienced it here and based on what other birders say, it is the right time to start birdwatching for the season.  With the extreme heat two months ago, now is definitely a good time to bird.

With no planned destination and no vehicle to use, me and my friend just opted to ride a taxi and go to the biggest park here in the city. Aspire Park. With it's numerous trees, man-made ponds and many jogging trails, this is a perfect place to go birdwatching in "D" city.  The following are photos of some of the birds we saw that cool morning.

The starbird for this trip was the Crested Lark.

Indian Silverbills

Laughing Dove (center), Male House Sparrow (left) and Female House Sparrow (right)

White-eared Bulbul

White-eared Bulbul feasting on some flowers.

Birds we saw at the park were a lone Crested Lark and Indian Silverbills (both lifers), White-eared Bulbul or the White-cheeked Bulbul, House Sparrows, Common Mynahs and a Laughing Dove. And yes.... a pair of Alexandrine Parakeets again in flight! Not much birds but considering we were only there for less than an hour.

I was hoping to see my most wanted bird that day but it was still a no-show.  Oh well, maybe I will meet Mr. Hoopoe on my next trip. Ciao!