Tuesday 24 September 2013

San Xavier del Bac Mission, Tucson, AZ, Sept 2013

The full moon was sinking in the west as the first glow of dawn appeared over the mountains to the south-east of Tucson. I wanted to take a break from driving and wave my binoculars about in the early light, so I pulled in at San Xavier del Bac Mission. I scrambled up the mound in an unsuccessful attempt to get a nice shot of moon and mission, but my vantage was wrong and I was just a few minutes too late.

Mourning Doves were abundant and clattered as they flushed from the ground at my scrambling. A Curve-billed Thrasher called to greet the day.

There is an area of dry scrub and cactus around the mission and a quick walk here brought Common Raven, Verdin and Abert’s Towhee. Gambel’s Quail ran along the fence-line by what looked like a school.

The telegraph wires and the tops of dead trees provided hawking spots for Western Kingbirds and a Red-tailed Hawk took possession of the utility pole.

The dry course of the Santa Cruz River runs close by and there was a flush of green reeds in what appeared to be an irrigation channel. Perhaps this would explain a small flock of White-faced Ibis and a Yellow-headed Blackbird that flew over.

My failure to achieve a photo of the moon over the mission was disappointing. A House Finch tried its best to cheer me up, but Carpodacus on cactus feels like I am forcing the alliteration too far.
Birds seen; 15

Gambel’s Quail 7, White-faced Ibis 4, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Red-tailed Hawk 2, Mourning Dove 200, Gila Woodpecker 2, Western Kingbird 3, Common Raven 4, Barn Swallow 5, Verdin 1, Curve-billed Thrasher 1, Abert’s Towhee 5, Yellow-headed Blackbird 1, House Finch 25, Lesser Goldfinch 3.

San Xavier del Bac Mission can be seen at Google Earth ref; 32 6 25.84N 111 0 28.32W. It is close to Highway 19 as it runs south from Tucson.
Visit the dedicated USA and Canada page for more posts from Tucson, including Madera Canyon and Patagonia.

Monday 23 September 2013

Thinking big

I have been searching through heaps and heaps of boxes full of old hard copy photographs and slides, trying to find a particular picture. I came across this old print from a few years back at Bolsa Chica.
This Snowy Egret certainly had ambition, but when the fish turned and came closer, it showed a prudent sense of self-preservation and backed off slightly.

Can anyone tell me what kind of fish this is. I recall searching the nascent internet at the time, but found nothing. Now my conundrum is back to trouble me and I am still none the wiser.
Answers on a postcard please.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Creekside Park, Dubai, September 2013

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun,
He knew he shouldn’t yet he,
Went out along the jetty,
The local chaps saw his slow collapse,
And smirked as he came undone.
Suited, booted, belted,
He melted.
In old Dubai, ‘neath a clear blue sky,
The natives are apt to sneer,
At a sun-struck fool, who has lost his cool,
At the end of a shadeless pier.
In Creekside Park, the Crested Lark
Looks after number one,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

Today didn’t quite go to plan. The plan, such as it was, was to try and describe a route around the prime birding sites of Dubai. But it was fiercely hot and come Thursday lunchtime, traffic was already building for the weekend. I had to change my plans and decided on a short, gentle stroll through Creekside Park.

There are three entrances along the western edge of the park. The most southerly entrance is by the Children’s City at Google Earth ref; 25 14 7.66N 55 19 35.13E. Air conditioned bus stops here are a blessing when the heat hits you like a well aimed brick.
It was noon as I stepped from the cab and ridiculously hot. I was only likely to see the common birds that I have seen many times in Dubai, so what made me do this to myself I wonder. Anyway I persevered for a couple of hours in the midday sun and nearly did myself a mischief into the bargain.

A Striated Heron was sheltering beneath a short jetty and I tried to creep up and take its picture. This meant stepping out from the shade into the full heat of the early afternoon. A very uncomfortable experience. From the end of the jetty, I could see a good number of birds shading themselves on the base of the supports for Garhoud Bridge and my curiosity got the better of me. I couldn’t get close enough to make a good identification, but I suspect that many of them were Red-wattled Lapwings.

There were a few of the lapwings on the shore of the creek as I walked along the beach. There were also a few Common Sandpiper, a Greenshank and some Whimbrel. One of the Whimbrel was trying to find some shade in the childrens' playground where the hot metal apparatus must have been torture for little hands.

High above me the wires of the cable car system made a good perch for European Bee-eaters, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, and of course, loads of Eurasian Collared Doves.

Down to earth in the park, Eurasian Hoopoes were as common today as I have seen them before.

Most of the birds had made shade their priority of the day and I felt bad about flushing them and making them exert any energy in the stultifying heat. One moment of excitement came when I passed a treeful of White-eared Bulbuls and Red-vented Bulbuls in full squawk. Something had obviously upset them, but I couldn’t see what it might have been. There are a few feral cats in the park and perhaps one of them was threatening a nest. I gave the area a full look over and found a young Red-vented Bulbul. Perhaps the parent birds were getting very excited as their offspring left the nest.

Birds seen;

Grey Francolin 4, Striated Heron 1, Red-wattled Lapwing 15, Common Ringed Plover 1, Common Sandpiper 6, Common Greenshank 1, Whimbrel 5, Eurasian Collared Dove 60, Laughing Dove 4, European Bee-eater 4, Eurasian Hoopoe 15, House Crow 25, Red-vented Bulbul 5, White-eared Bulbul 20, Common Myna 45, Asian Pied Starling 3, Purple Sunbird 3, House Sparrow 120

For a previous post from Creek Park, follow the link below;

Visit the dedicated Middle East Page for more posts from Dubai., including Mushrif Park, Safa Park and Ra’s al-Khor.