Migration has arrived

Birding reports from from our rep in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Lesser Spot Finder
Posts: 230
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:25 am
Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk

Migration has arrived

Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:56 am

This has been a cracking couple of weeks with a visible migration and a couple of surprises. Below is a day to day account, some of it extracted from my birding diary, showing the birds of Bastion and the surrounding Helmand countryside. It will hopefully give you a taste of what the middle of Helmand is like at the height of spring migration.

11 Mar

Today a run around the airfield produced both Turkestan and Isabelline Shrikes perched on razor wire. Large numbers of Swallows over flying north and stopping to feed around the margins of the Waste Water Site (WWS). Crested Larks singing all over the airfield most perched atop mounds of earth.

16 Mar

I had an excellent run this afternoon which produced a Saker Falcon over the eastern part of the airfield, and a lone Rock Thrush at the WWS. One Green Sandpiper, a singing Graceful Prinia and one Citrine Wagtail (in full breeding plumage) were all found within the confines of the WWS. The Saker was a stunning and an extremely large bird – very rare nowadays due to the Arab falconry trade and a privilege to see, albeit for such a short time and without the use of my under-utilized binoculars. The WWS is now cut off by the recent runway build but I only have access by foot if I clamber over a couple of short fences and ignore the shouts of the contractors.

17 Mar

Yet another run around the airfield (7 miles again) this afternoon with a short break at the WWS to catch my breath and cool off in the breeze. A flock of Spanish Sparrows (50+) Citrine and Masked Wagtails, Crested Lark, two Variable Wheatears (race picata) were all immediately obvious with four White-tailed Plovers on the adjacent stony ground and three Kentish Plovers flushed as I passed the outflow. A small flock of Larks were possibly Short-toed but were mobile and I was unable to confirm.

18 Mar

My final IRG to CP Samsor and FOB Shawquat to show my replacement the ground he will be expected to cover over the next six months. Three Steppe Buzzards were seen on the 4 ½ hour journey to Samsor with 20+ Crowned Sandgrouse just after departing Bastion. Swallows a plenty in the Green Zone and much evidence of Pied Bushchat. Along the route I found several White-tailed Plover in flooded fields and a single Green Sandpiper at the edges . A lone male Marsh Harrier over CP Samsor at midday was a new Afghan tick and not expected. There was evidence of Common Myna breeding at the old fort at Shawquat with birds in and out of a large hole in the wall.

19 Mar

Another run in the heat of an Afghan afternoon. Things are looking up with five White-tailed Plovers at the WWS. Crested Larks are again Omni present and as I arrived I flushed four Little-ringed Plovers. One Bluethroat in the reedy margins and several Masked and Citrine Wagtails were joined by a Yellow Wagtail of the race thunbergi. Another Green Sandpiper again, flushed as I crossed the berm , in between the WWS and the desert.

20 Mar

An early start at 0600hrs was not wasted with an hour’s trip to the WWS. Both Ringed (5) and Little-ringed Plovers (4) today (the Ringed is a major surprise). I surprised a pair of stunning and confiding Hoopoe feeding in a ditch as I walked towards the WWS. A roost of 200+ Spanish Sparrows left the small reed bed and again Yellow Wagtails mixed with Citrine Wagtails at the edge of the outflow. The Yellow Wagtails were of the races melanogrisea and flava and it was obvious that there were also two races of White Wagtail with both dukhunensis and personata present.

Swallows overflew north and another wader made an appearance as I flushed a Wood Sandpiper from an outflow stream. At the far side of the WWS a pair of Pied Bushchat flitted around the vegetation, possibly looking for a suitable breeding area, and three Tawny Pipits fed at the edge. Graceful Prinias sang with possibly three males holding territory. As I walked back a flock of 30+ Short-toed Lark landed and fed in front of me for some time and several Warblers, mainly Chiffchaff, but some unidentified, flitted around the reeds. The first Syke’s Warbler of the year showed well at the edge of the reeds and a stunning male Bluethroat appeared and called as I passed. A Crested Lark sang high in the air as I left and this was the first time that I had heard and seen one doing so.

The afternoon run around Bastion 1 and 2 only produced one Tree Sparrow and a brief glimpse of a singleton Crested Lark and this highlighted the paucity of birds in camp now that it has become more and more urban! However, at the end of the day, it was well worth getting up early and I’ll do the same tomorrow. You never know what will be around!

roger dickey
Posts: 100
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:58 pm
Location: Somerton, Somerset

Postby roger dickey » Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:44 pm

Great report Rich. Really good reading.

We'll miss you when you're back!


Lesser Spot Finder
Posts: 230
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:25 am
Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk

Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:43 am

Met up with Tony Giles yesterday for an informal handover of the WWS. New species for Bastion, Desert Wheatear, confirmed when I got back to Bastion 2 and checked tail patterns. Two Hoopoes still present and were both confiding. Thirteen Little-ringed Plovers and two Green Sandpipers still around and both Citrine and White Wagtails feeding around the margins. The Citrine Wagtails are now in pristine breeding plumage and particularly stunning.

Several Pied Bushchats now in location and plenty of Warblers in the reeds; most are flighty and difficult to get a grips with but one was confirmed as a Greenish Warbler.

Formal handover in a couple of weeks although I did pass on a fieldguide yesterday - he hopes to pass it on in 6 months! An volunteers?

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